By Ron VandenBoom
Soil samples taken during the summer of 1999 south of the BNSF railyard between Fifth Avenue and Third Avenue along First Street, indicate diesel contamination extends south of First Street.
Soil probing and samplings have shown that contamination between Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue has extended in the area south of the Park Hotel near Fourth Avenue south of First Street and possibly as far south as the alley between First and Second Streets.
According to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality Update, probes south of The Second Chance Store and Master Sports did not show signs of diesel contamination. But probes closer to the Park Hotel did indicate that diesel-impacted soils were present.
Three probes were drilled into the alley north of Norwest Bank's parking lot. One was located north of Norwest Bank's drive-through teller, another was located adjacent to Fourth Avenue, and the third was drilled between Norwest and Fourth Avenue near the former powerhouse building.
The probe in the middle in the alley showed signs of diesel contamination, the report said, while adding that the contamination could have come from areas south of the alley.
Doug Martin, DEQ project manager, said records indicate some type of motor was at one time used at the old powerhouse location where the Elks Club stands today and there is some reason to suspect this could be a possible source of contamination.
Martin also suggested a former auto repair facility and car dealership located south of Second Street could have been the source of contamination in this area.
"It does not make sense that a plume of contamination that migrated in a uniform pattern would suddenly spike off in a certain direction against the flow of the water table," he said.
The level of contamination reported by the DEQ at the southern-most location does not fall into the Tier I or most protective level of DEQ's soil screening levels, the report states.
No mandatory cleanup of the contaminated area is indicated by the level of contamination according to the standards currently established by the DEQ. The same standards also indicate there is no likely or immediate threat to human health as a result of the newly found contamination.