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Last contaminants from Stimson operations to be removed ahead of redevelopment

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Posted at 2:45 PM, Aug 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-29 10:48:35-04

BONNER — The last repository of contaminants remaining from past industrial activity at the Bonner mill will be removed and cleaned to industrial standards this winter, clearing the way for future redevelopment of the three-acre parcel.

Missoula County this week approved an agreement between Territorial Landworks and Bonner Property Development LLC to get the project moving. The county will contribute around $3 million in tax increment funds to finance the cleanup.

“Territorial is the engineer that will be working for Bonner Property Development in putting together the bid package,” said Dori Brownlow, director of development for Missoula County. “They’ve been working closely with the Department of Environment Quality. There’s quite a bit of criteria that has to go into it.”

The three-acre site contains soil and debris contaminated with petroleum compounds and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, once used at the former Stimson lumber mill.

Keith Large, project manager with Montana DEQ, said the repository stems from cleanup work that occurred at the site in 2011. The initial cleanup netted more waste material that initially expected, and the added waste was capped on-site.

“They figured out that if they could build an on-site repository, it would save them about $700,000 in hauling costs to take it to the landfill,” said Large. “It all got built in 2012. All this was happening when Bonner Property Development was buying all the property from Stimson lumber.”

Large said the remaining contaminants rest in the location of the old kilns, where wood was dried as it left the sawmill and before it went to the planer, where it was cut into various products. The repository is estimated at 40,000 cubic yards.

“Part of the waste is about eight feet deep because of the old kiln building basement,” said Large. “They’ll get rid of all that and they’ll have to prove to EPA and DEQ they’ve passed the test. It’s a pretty straight forward project.”

Bonner Property Development purchased the larger property from Stimson in 2012 and has retrofitted the former mill with new businesses and hundreds of new jobs, from beer production to bicycle manufacturing.

But the location of the repository sits at the center of the larger property, hindering further redevelopment. The waste will be removed and deposited in the Missoula landfill, and the repository will be cleaned to industrial standards.

“You can see how much development has happened in the Bonner mill,” Large said. “No one was against locating (the repository) there in 2011 and 2012, but now there’s over 400 people that work on-site again. That three acres is in a prime location.”

The bid package for cleanup work will be available in September, with bids due in October. The work is set to take place in the middle of December.

The Missoula Development Authority is behind the project and supports the use of tax increment to complete the project once and for all. Missoula County commissioners also support the work.

“This has been a long time coming, and it won’t be long before those couple acres can be developed industrially and be a functioning part of the development park,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “Given the success of the development park, we’re confident we’ll see new businesses hiring new people and filling this couple acres in the next couple years.”

The county has roughly $1.3 million in tax increment from the Bonner mill district, and the remaining amount will be financed. Bonner Property Development will be responsible for any cleanup costs exceeding $3 million, according to the agreement.

“We’re very excited, and I think the Bonner community is excited,” said Steve Nelson, one of the owners of Bonner Property Development. “Back when we initially purchased the property, we objected to (the repository) being put on the site. We appreciate the support and will continue to move forward and do really good things for Missoula and the Bonner community.”