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White Pine Sash

A 1964 aerial view of the former White Pine Sash site.

Montana Department of Environmental Quality

The cleanup of a former industrial site on Missoula’s north side could begin later this year, once the Montana Department of Environmental Quality finishes two plans detailing the work.

Cleanup of the White Pine Sash site would open a long-neglected swath of real estate within reach of established services, and interest among developers is expected to grow as the work gets underway.

“There’s a chance they could propose to do some of the work this summer,” said Moria Bucy, Superfund action manager with DEQ. “But it’s more realistic to see cleanup work begin next spring.”

DEQ released its record of decision for the 43-acre site in February. The decision determined that one-fourth of the property, or roughly 10 acres, must be cleaned to meet residential standards.

With the record of decision now in the books, Bucy said the next step will see the completion of a remedial action plan. It’s expected out on May 11, followed by a 30-day review period.

“It’s essentially a road map of how the cleanup would occur,” Bucy said. “On some projects, there are a lot of specific tasks that have to go in a particular order, and on other projects, not so much. It’s project specific.”

Bucy said the remedial plan will look at steps required to complete work across the property and ensure coordination between parties. DEQ will follow with the release of a remedial design document later this year.

“That’s an engineering design document,” she said. “It includes specific details on how various things will be constructed, as well as non-constructed things like routes for hauling trucks and procedures for covering the load.”

The agency’s cleanup decision received mixed reviews when it was released in February. Huttig Building Products, which is responsible for the cleanup, argued that the site was historically an industrial area and should remain so.

But area residents had hoped to see a wider area cleaned to meet residential standards. The real estate market is also awaiting DEQ’s remedial design plans as developers consider the area for future projects.

“We’re keeping an eye on it,” said Collin Bangs with Prudential of Missoula. “At this point, we’d call it a light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks like there will be some possibilities for that area.”

The city’s Development Services is also watching the progress. Mike Haynes, directer of Development Services, said the city would work with future developers, just as it would for any project.

“There are no applications and no development plans or proposals we’re aware of right now on the site,” said Haynes. “If there is a development proposal, we’ll look at that and review it, just as we would any other property in the city.”

Laval Means, senior planner with Development Services, said the property is currently zoned for a mix of residential, commercial and light industrial uses. The parcel consists of several properties, each under individual ownership.

“Once cleaned, it’s one of the few parcels inside the city that would be vacant and close to services,” said Means. “It really could be a range of different things that go on there.”

According to DEQ, the property was contaminated by decades of chemical leaks and spills when it was used by a window sash company. Contamination was discovered in 1993 when underground storage tanks were removed.

Bucy said DEQ has assigned a new project officer to oversee the cleanup. Cyris Trahan replaced Scott Graham after the record of decision was released in February.

Huttig couldn’t be reached for comment.

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