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Bear Paw Development receives Brownfield cleanup grants

EPA awards $1 million to address property contamination and spur community and economic revitalization

Press release

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday $1 million in Brownfields grant funding including in Havre and Box Elder to support the environmental assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of critical properties in communities across northern Montana.

The EPA awards are being provided to two grantees. Bear Paw Development Corp. will receive $500,000 in EPA Brownfields funding for high-priority projects in Havre and Box Elder. The Sweetgrass Development Corporation will also receive $500,000 to assess properties in Browning, Sunburst and East Glacier Park, Montana.

The investments are part the agency’s Brownfields Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup Grant Programs.

“EPA’s Brownfields grants are helping rural Montana communities expand and revitalize blighted and underused properties,” EPA Regional Administrator K.C. Becker said. “We look forward to these efforts as they address contamination and create new opportunities for the residents of Havre, Box Elder, Browning, Sunburst and East Glacier Park.”

“Too often, folks in Montana suffer the lasting impacts of toxic waste — and the Brownfields in Havre, Box Elder, and Glacier County critically need these cleanup projects,” Sen Jon Tester said. “This funding is a big opportunity to boost economic development and improve quality of life. I’m proud to have secured this funding through my bipartisan infrastructure law, and I will keep pushing for more cleanup projects across our state.”

Bear Paw Development Corp .: $500,000

Bear Paw Development Corp. will use EPA Brownfields funding to assess environmental contamination at targeted properties in Havre and Box Elder.

“This significant investment in Bear Paw Development’s Brownfields Program will assure the good work of assessing contaminated properties in northern Montana, with the goal of cleaning them up and having them once again become productive and useful, will continue as it has for more than a decade,” the Bear Paw Executive Director Paul Tuss said. “There are multiple wonderful examples in our region where previously contaminated properties have been cleaned up through Bear Paw’s Brownfields Program and now support businesses or other entities that contribute significantly to the community in which they are located. This is a big deal for our area and these funds will be put to immediate use for the betterment of the communities we serve.”

Key properties in Havre include the Bullhook Community Health Center, which recently purchased vacant homes on the adjacent city block in order to expand medical, dental, behavior health and mental health services. EPA grant funds will be used for assessments of these homes for lead-based paint and asbestos prior to demolition for the expansion of the health center.

The Havre Senior Center is also interested in expanding services, but a suspected petroleum release poses a barrier to their plans. EPA funds will be used to assess potential risks the center should consider when determining future investment and redevelopment of the property.

Bear Paw Development also identified the Havre Police and Fire stations as a priority site. Currently, women are not allowed to serve as firefighters in the Havre Fire Department because the building does not offer a separate women’s locker room and dormitory. The Fire Department would like to convert the police station’s unused shooting range into these spaces, but investigations have confirmed asbestos, lead, and heavy metals on surfaces throughout the building. EPA grant funding will be used to do extensive cleanup planning for the best approach to remove the contamination.

The former Box Elder Landfill sits 25 miles south of Havre and operated from the early 1970s to the early 2000s. Hill County, the site’s current owner, would like to consider redevelopment of the site as a solar farm that would help reduce energy costs to residents in Box Elder and the Rocky Boy’s Reservation. EPA funding will be used to assess the former landfill and determine if any contamination is present and if cleanup is required.

Assessments for redevelopment projects at the Bullhook Community Health Center and the Havre Senior Center will expand services and education to the residents of Havre. The Bullhook Clinic expansion is expected to create approximately 15 jobs, and the redevelopment of the Havre Police and Fire Station will reduce exposure to asbestos and heavy metals while also allowing the station to hire female firefighters. Cleanup and redevelopment of the former Box Elder landfill into a solar field will help create more environmentally friendly energy sources as well as reduce energy cost burdens for area residents.

Sweetgrass Development Corp .: $500,000

The Sweetgrass Development Corporation in partnership with the North Central Montana Economic Development District will use the EPA Brownfields grant funding to assess five priority sites located in Browning, Sunburst, and East Glacier Park.

“The Board of Directors and staff of NCMEDD are very excited to move forward with the Brownfields Assessment grant award of $500,000. This, in conjunction with the recently obtained Brownfields revolving loan funds of $1 million, will allow for full project completion. We will be able to work with landowners to determine contamination, provide a clean-up plan, and move forward with the best possible remediation of the site,” Sweetgrass Development Corp. Executive Director Sarah Converse said. “Many main streets and older buildings are changing owners, with our business revolving loan funds we can provide financing as well. This will allow for streamlined assistance for businesses to strengthen our economies. These funds will be a huge benefit to rural north central Montana and assistance to our Tribal partners.”

Priority sites in Browning include Coop’s Corner Conoco, a fueling station located along U.S. Highway 2/U.S. Highway 89 junction with an unresolved petroleum release. Redevelopment plans for the property include expanding the convenience store’s services to offer more retail items and basic household essentials, as well as laundromat facilities and a car wash. The Cowboy Museum, a vacant lot in downtown Browning, has had potential developers discouraged by the possibility of asbestos and lead-based paint. EPA Brownfields funding will be used to assess these two sites for environmental concerns and future redevelopment.

The project also identifies the Sunburst Car Wash and Suta North as two priority sites in Sunburs. The Sunburst Car Wash property is currently for sale, but developers are concerned about threats of contamination from the site’s historic use as a lumbar yard. The owner of the Suta North site, a former fueling station with an unresolved petroleum release, is interested in selling the property to the city for development of an electric car charging station. The Glacier Village Restaurant in Glacier Park Village will also be assessed for asbestos and lead based paint. EPA Brownfields funding will assist with assessments at these sites before they can be sold and redeveloped.

Future uses of these sites include new commercial and retail spaces, workforce housing near the Canadian border and an electric vehicle charging station. Redevelopment of these sites will spur local investment, create jobs and expand services for rural communities.

For more information on EPA’s Brownfields Program, people can visit EPA’s Brownfields webpage at .


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