Do you own property that you are trying to sell but that may have asbestos or petroleum contamination? Are you trying to purchase property, but do not have the money to complete an environmental assessment? If either of these situations are familiar and the property is in Cascade, Glacier, Pondera, Teton and Toole counties or on the Blackfeet Reservation (fee patent property), we can assist.

Sweetgrass Development Corporation (SDC) is again applying for an Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Assessment Grant to complete environmental assessments and cleanup planning on properties contaminated with petroleum and hazardous substances, including asbestos and lead-based paint, within the region. In 2015, Sweetgrass Development was awarded a $400,000 EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant to complete environmental assessments and cleanup planning on properties identified.

The award allowed Sweetgrass to assist landowners faced with environmental issues that were preventing redevelopment or sale of their properties. To date, nine Phase I assessments and seven Phase II assessments were completed and four are in the final processes. Properties located in the above-mentioned counties are potentially eligible to participate in the program.

A Brownfield is a property where expansion, redevelopment or reuse is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. Nearly every community in Montana has Brownfields sites. Left untouched, a Brownfield property can pose huge environmental, legal and public and private investment challenges and can pose a threat to human health or water sources.

The program works in cooperation with the property owners to assist in removing environmental issues associated with properties. Local groups or private investors reluctant to invest in a property out of fear of contamination can use assessment funds to determine the nature and extent of the environmental problem. Sweetgrass assists communities and eligible private/public property owners affected by environmental contamination by:

•Completing Phase I and II environmental site assessments.

•Estimating site contaminant risks, if any.

•Developing conceptual cleanup plans and costs based on the nature and extent of contamination.

The benefits of participating in Sweetgrass Development’s Brownfields Program are many. Assessments are completed by a contractor, hired by Sweetgrass, at no cost to the property owner. The information generated can be used to create cleanup plans and apply for cleanup funding, satisfy purchaser or lender concerns, regulatory agency requirements, or simply to determine whether environmental contamination exists on a property.

Often, the unknown nature of the contamination limits public and private investments. Through assessment, the contamination can be identified and plans can be made to address the problem. Participation in SDC’s Brownfield program may also make a property eligible for additional state and federal funds, for further assessment and cleanup.

Any public or private property owner located within the Sweetgrass region may apply. Eligible properties typically include former gas stations, auto repair shops, pesticide/herbicide facilities, dry cleaners, mine sites, buildings containing asbestos or lead-based paint, or any property where site revitalization is complicated by contamination. 

To learn more about this program, determine whether your property is eligible for assessment or to be added to the SDC Brownfields mailing list, contact Sarah Converse, executive director, at 727-5173 or sweetgrassdevelopment@gmail.com or Michele Turville, deputy director, at 808-1070 or Michelesdc2@gmail.com.