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Cleanup continues at the former Champion mill site, even as an amendment to the voluntary cleanup plan is under review.

Tests last fall identified a new contaminant called trichloroethylene, or TCE, in soil vapor in an area called the tractor repair shop. TCE is a solvent likely used there to clean grease off automotive parts, said Montana Department of Environmental Quality project manager Kate Fry.

So a plan update that addresses TCE is under public review, but at the same time, the fumes are being cleaned. The Missoula Redevelopment Agency's Chris Behan said Friday that a venting machine that pulls fumes from the soil is fixing the problem.

Cleanup involves both private and public parties, and the redevelopment agency has supported the creation of the Old Sawmill District at the former industrial complex. The state is overseeing the cleanup.

In a letter to the Department of Environmental Quality, the scientist supervising the work said he expects the remediation of TCE to be complete soon.

"We anticipate that TCE concentrations will be lowered to acceptable risk levels in all probes within several (three to six) months, but in any event well within the five-year period allowed by statute," reads a May 27 letter to the DEQ from Geomatrix senior scientist Chris Cerquone.

The cleanup is part of the revitalization of the 46-acre property on the south bank of the Clark Fork River between Hickory and California streets. Plans include a city park, some 520 residences and office space.

The MRA's Behan said he believes the southeast portion of the property that had been contaminated with gas is

100 percent clean. Final testing takes place in the next few weeks. He said the DEQ still needs to sign off on an office building that had asbestos, and the tractor repair area.

Fry said the work completed so far has addressed at least a majority of the contamination in the soil, but it isn't clear how much longer cleanup will take. The voluntary cleanup plan process offers no guarantees of fast action.

"The VCP can be a long, convoluted process," Fry said.

In the meantime, the public can comment on the amendment to the cleanup plan until July 6. It's available at www.deq.mt.gov/pubcom.asp

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