County, DEQ plan cleanup at Haugan Superfund site

Mineral Independent | January 13, 2021 12:00 AM

Mineral County and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality are partnering to investigate and address an oily pit at the Milwaukee Road Haugan Superfund site.

It is located about 30 miles northwest of Superior in Haugan. The work involved will protect public health and the environment by preventing people and animals from coming into contact with petroleum while the agencies collect samples to determine the level of contamination in soil and groundwater.

This area of concern is an inactive, 40-acre railroad switching yard that operated from 1909 to the 1980s. It is located immediately adjacent to the St. Regis River and the site is home to a portion of the Route of the Olympian Recreational Trail.

This site was listed on Montana’s Comprehensive Environmental Cleanup and Responsibility Act, also known as State Superfund, priority list in 1988.

An initial site inspection was held in 1990 where inspectors found elevated levels of petroleum hydrocarbons and volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds in onsite soil, sediment and sludge.

There were, and still remain, several abandoned drums containing oily wastes and possibly pesticides on the site. Those drums that remain appear to be empty but also it looks like fuel and oil have leaked into a pit which is in the center of the disturbance.

Extremely limited remedial action has taken place due to its remote location, multiple owners and several bankruptcies of parties involved in ownership. However, this is about to change.

In November 2019, Mineral County was awarded a Reclamation and Development Planning Grant from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation in the amount of $49,998 to begin corrective investigation at the affected location.

The grant has two goals: minimizing risks to human health and the environment and determining the presence of contamination in soil and groundwater.

“We just finished the first phase on the investigation with grant monies from the state. Our next step is to try and acquire a grant under the Reclamation and Development Grants Program. It’s up for consideration during this session of the legislature”, reported Andy Short, Mineral County Environmental Health and Planning Director.

Short said security fencing will be installed around the open pit of contaminants to prevent people and animals from coming in contact with the petroleum.

Samples of soil and groundwater will be collected and analyzed for depth of the contamination. Once this investigation has been completed, Mineral County and DEQ plan to continue working together to pursue additional grant funding from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to clean up the contamination.

The work involved will be a minimal disruption to the recreation trail.