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About two dozen structures above a Billings superfund site receive mitigation systems for vapor intrusion

A Membrane Interface Probe at the Billings Superfund Site in November.
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
A Membrane Interface Probe at the Billings Superfund Site in November.

On one November weekday in Billings, a machine punches down beneath the pavement of a busy thru-street, probing for data near a dry cleaning business in central Billings. Project manager Roger Hoogerheide with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stands by in a hard hat.

He says they’ve traced the pollution to five different locations where businesses once used potent chemicals like tetrachloroethylene.

“The dry cleaning industry has moved to more environmentally friendly types of cleaners, but this was the dry cleaning solvent of choice to use in the 60s and 70s,” said Hoogerheide.

Vapor intrusion into buildings above the roughly three-mile contamination plume is the big concern at the Billings superfund site.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says long term exposure to tetrachloroethylene could damage a person's nerves, liver, and kidneys, and increase the risk of cancer, among other possible health effects.

The EPA has identified more than 3000 homes and other structures above the plume, and several hundred are high priority because of groundwater concentrations. Hoogerheide says to date they’ve installed about two dozen air mitigation devices.

“And I’m hopeful that I will get a record of decision, which is EPA’s cleanup document, in place by fall of next year, which would allow me to proceed forward with installation of additional mitigation systems in 2025.”

Billings residents can see their home’s location in relation to the superfund site by checking out this map, and more information can be found on the EPA’s website.

Billings residents interested in having their property sampled may contact Roger Hoogerheide, EPA Remedial Project Manager at or (406) 422-9725.

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