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Agencies OK cleanup at grain elevator site

by KIANNA GARDNER
Daily Inter Lake | June 26, 2021 12:00 AM

After several months of cleanup at the former CHS grain elevator site in Kalispell, environmental agencies have determined no further action is required at the property, where contamination from various hazardous substances had been found.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assessed the property last year and discovered asbestos, lead-based paint in onsite buildings and petroleum and pesticides in the soils.

A total of 710 tons of contaminated soil was hauled to the Flathead County landfill as part of the abatement, demolition and cleanup, according to a recent news release from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

Remedial work at the property, located at Fifth Avenue West and Center Street, commenced in January and wrapped up in April.

The initial evaluations were performed shortly after the Flathead County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) purchased the property last year from CHS Inc. The company had ceased using the 100-year-old infrastructure in 2019 after it relocated to the new Glacier Rail Park northeast of downtown.

FCEDA took over ownership of the property as part of a grander, more long-term vision to transform the Downtown Kalispell Core Area, and — in tandem with the city of Kalispell — pursued the assessment in order to ensure the site was environmentally sound for future use.

After the substances were discovered, FCEDA and CHS both provided funding to “properly address the hazardous building materials and contaminated soil,” the news release stated.

The assessment and subsequent cleanup activities were performed through the Brownfields Program offered through the EPA and Montana DEQ.

The program works collaboratively with internal and external stakeholders to address hazardous substance and petroleum sites. Once contaminants are identified and remedial work and cleanup work is complete at the brownfield, the formerly contaminated site may be utilized once again.

The Glacier Rail Park, which was built atop a former quarry, already underwent an EPA Brownfields environmental assessment prior to being redeveloped into a business park. And now, with the assessment and cleanup complete at the historic grain elevator site, developers can move forward with their intended use for the property.

FLATHEAD VALLEY developer Mark Ruis purchased the site from FCEDA earlier this month and recently released plans for transforming the area into a mixed-use residential and commercial area.

As it stands, the property will feature more than 200 apartments, bars, restaurants, a hotel, retail space and parking — an ambitious plan that is part of Ruis’ vision to help revitalize the valley’s downtown areas. In May, Ruis told the Daily Inter Lake he will break ground soon and hopes to have the project completed by the end of 2022.

DEQ Petroleum Brownfields Coordinator Brandon Kingsbury commended the recent cleanup effort and cooperation exhibited by the economic development authority and other parties in a prepared statement.

“FCEDA’s commitment to the assessment and cleanup of the former grain and bulk storage facility has brought this vital anchor property from industrial use to mixed residential and commercial use,” he said. “This transformation will add synergy to a blossoming and vibrant downtown Kalispell.”

Reporter Kianna Gardner may be reached at kgardner@dailyinterlake.com.