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State, federal researchers collect samples from Billings superfund site as cleanup plans progress

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Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
Roger Hoogerheide with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds a device that captures air samples to detect for contamination.

Researchers with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Montana Department of Environmental Quality are collecting air samples from a recently identified federal superfund site near downtown Billings, where years’ worth of pollution from dry cleaners dumping chemicals down the drain could be leaking into residents’ homes.

Homeowner Anna Weidinger lives near the middle of the 860-acre contaminant plume. She’s one of a few dozen people who’ve volunteered for free sampling as part of the EPA’s initial data-gathering stage for the site, which earned federal status and funding in 2021.

“It’s just a little scary and unnerving more than anything,” she said. “Not knowing.”

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A map of the roughly 860-acre contaminant plume in Billings.

On a recent afternoon, government contractors crowd into Weidinger’s basement to drill a small hole in the concrete. EPA Remedial Project Manager Roger Hoogerheide says they’re placing devices around the house and in the ground to detect tetrachloroethylene, which over time can cause health issues including cancer.

“That’s the contaminant we’re most concerned about,” he said.

Researchers are in the data collecting stage and will take samples from more homes in the coming months to "determine which homes may require mitigations systems to reduce the risk of exposure."

If you would like to have your house or business tested for vapor intrusion contamination, email or call Roger Hoogerheide at (406) 422-9725 or email him at hoogerheide.roger@epa.gov.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.