I’d like to thank the Chronicle and all those in the Bozeman community who have expressed an interest in EPA’s recent proposal to remove a portion of the Idaho Pole site from the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).

Cleaning up and restoring property is one of EPA’s highest priorities, and the agency is safely and effectively leveraging Superfund reuse outcomes here in Montana and at hundreds of cleanup sites across the nation. Deleting parts of the Idaho Pole site from the NPL —a former wood-treating site that has been the subject of investigation and cleanup actions for more than three decades — would make way for property along Interstate 90 to be reintegrated into the community as an asset.

While site reuse is an important goal, EPA can only fully realize these types of outcomes when we communicate with our partners and stakeholders, including the public. The agency depends upon meaningful public participation and input on our actions, and we thank you for providing just that.

EPA proposed to delete 82 acres of the Idaho Pole site in July, and as part of the subsequent comment process, community members raised important questions about the site’s history and the basis for our proposal. As we do at all sites, we are carefully evaluating those concerns. We expect to make a final decision, and issue a detailed response to all comments received, by the end of the year.

As we review public comments, we are also making a concerted effort to make sure the community understands the effort leading up to this proposal, and what has been done to address public health at the Idaho Pole site.

Some key points we are emphasizing include:

The proposal to delete a portion of the Idaho Pole site is not hastily conceived; it is a milestone based on sound science and a concern for public health. EPA’s proposed action reflects years of cleanup actions, data collection, risk evaluation, and public outreach conducted with our partners at the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). In 2010, EPA and MDEQ took a significant step toward this deletion when we announced the completion of soil cleanup actions at the site. Since then, staff at both agencies have conducted a thorough review of previously collected site data, completed an 18-month effort to collect and assess new sampling data, and incorporated updated science and risk information for site contaminants into the process leading up to the proposal. We have communicated progress on these efforts through various public meetings, presentations, and outreach materials.

The area proposed for deletion is safe for commercial and industrial use. EPA’s evaluation of site conditions, including surface, subsurface, and saturated soils, is based on extensive sampling data and analyses completed over the past decades, and as recently as last year. As a result, EPA has determined that completed cleanup actions are protective, an important step that would pave the way for the area to be safely reused consistent with local interest in redevelopment. Portions of the Idaho Pole site that are not proposed for deletion include groundwater, treated soils, and saturated subsurface soils that still pose a risk to human health and environment. These areas will remain on the NPL.

EPA will continue to secure public health at the site. EPA and MDEQ will play active roles in monitoring and responding to any concerns related to current site conditions, at both any deleted portions of the site and areas that remain on the NPL. This includes comprehensive five-year reviews of the remedies in place as well as the regular evaluation of institutional controls designed to protect those working at and visiting the site.

EPA remains committed to transparent communication as we work to make science-based decisions that secure public health and advance the cleanup and reuse of the Idaho Pole site. I encourage those with questions or concerns about EPA’s proposed action to contact me or our site team for more information. You can find us at epa.gov/region8.

Gregory Sopkin is regional administrator of region 8 for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.