Livingston Superfund cleanup site pulled from priority list after good progress

Enterprise Staff

HELENA — Cleanup progress at BNSF Railway’s Livingston Shop Complex State Superfund Facility has led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pull the facility from consideration for the Superfund National Priorities List.

The facility is under Montana Department of Environmental Quality oversight.

“Significant cleanup work has been done at this facility, and we are confident that cleanup can be completed without the facility being placed on the National Priorities List,” DEQ Director Tom Livers said in a DEQ news release issued today. “DEQ supports the decision to remove the site from consideration for inclusion on the NPL.” 

The withdrawal was published in the Federal Register released Thursday. The action formally removes the facility from the list of New Proposed NPL Sites, the precursor to listing on the NPL, according to the release. 

The NPL is the list of highest-priority hazardous waste sites in the United States eligible for long-term cleanup under the federal Superfund program. In 2016, Montana DEQ and the EPA determined it is not necessary for the Livingston facility to be added to the NPL because cleanup is progressing well with DEQ oversight in cooperation with BNSF Railway, the release said.

Decades of industrial operations associated with BNSF contaminated the facility with solvents, fuel, asbestos and other substances. The site is approximately 2 miles long and a half-mile wide, and includes active locomotive and rail car repair and maintenance shops. Montana Rail Link is the current rail yard operator. DEQ began addressing contamination at the facility in 1989, and required BNSF to conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study to determine the appropriate cleanup actions. DEQ issued a Record of Decision, or ROD, in 2001 defining the required cleanup. 

Since then, DEQ has required BNSF to conduct cleanup at the facility and significant progress has been made toward completion of all cleanup requirements, the release said. Completed cleanup activities include:

• Sludge removal.

• Remediation of solvents in subsurface soil. 

• Underground storage tank removal.

• Surface soil and asbestos materials cleanup.

• Removal and biological breakdown of petroleum in groundwater.

DEQ also required investigations into vapors entering homes and other buildings. These investigations indicated no mitigation or remediation was necessary because vapors from the facility are not entering indoor air at concentrations above cleanup levels, the DEQ said. 

 The 2001 ROD remains in effect to guide continuing cleanup. Currently, BNSF is working with DEQ oversight to complete cleanup of two portions of the facility — the former C&P Packing facility and the API Separator Ponds — the area where sludge from engine-cleaning was deposited. 

DEQ anticipates completing this portion of work by 2018. BNSF also is testing technologies to address solvents in the bedrock and gravel aquifers during the summer and fall of 2017. DEQ plans to have treatment systems to address groundwater contamination in place by the end of 2018.