Havre Daily News
Property owners in Hill, Blaine and Choteau counties may soon have a resource to help them see what's beneath the surface.
Annmarie Robinson, Bear Paw Development Corp. deputy director, said the organization is applying for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Assessment Grant.
Bear Paw Development will seek $200,000 in grant funding, which could be used by property owners to find out if their land is contaminated. The three-year grant will be used to determine what contaminants are present in the soil and create a cleanup plan, Robinson told members of the Havre City Council this week.
Property owners must initiate the process to use the money for that purpose if Bear Paw secures the grant, Robinson said after Monday's City Council meeting.
According to an EPA Web site, brownfields are property where expansion, redevelopment or reuse is complicated by the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. Cleaning up the contamination allows the properties to be developed.
The assessment grant funding may not be used for cleanup, Robinson said.
In 2003, Hill County unsuccussfully applied for a $250,000 brownfields grant. Bear Paw Development Corp. handled the application.
Robinson said meetings for property owners interested in the program will soon be held in each county.
If the contaminants found are petroleum-based, property owners have at least one option for financial assistance for cleanup.
Applications can be submitted to the state Petroleum Tank Release Compensation Board, which will work with property owners in a cost-share agreement, according to the board's Web site. Funds are available for cleanups associated with underground storage tanks and for above-ground tanks with a capacity of up to 30,000 gallons.
If a property is eligible, the first $35,000 is split between the owner and the state. After the initial cost share, the state will pay 100 percent of cleanup costs up to $982,500.
Heating oil storage tanks with a capacity of 1,100 gallons or less also are eligible for funds. The state will pay half the cost for eligible properties up to $10,000, and will pay 100 percent of the cost up to $495,000.
State Department of Environmental Quality officials have said the brownfields program cannot be used in relation to any contaminants found during the First Street reconstruction project, set to begin as early as next spring, according to Robinson. She said DEQ officials believe more contaminated sites will be identified during the First Street project.
“We feel that's going to be an eye-opening experience for all of us,” Robinson said.
Robinson said DEQ officials have told her they are willing to meet with Havre property owners who have questions about the cleanup of contaminated soil. She said DEQ could provide information that would be helpful to property owners who are worried that contamination will be found on their property during the First Street project.
On the Web: deq.mt.gov/pet/index.asp