Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator K.C. Becker joined Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess and other city staff on Wednesday afternoon to tour the Old Sawmill District, which was a Brownfields district that was remediated by leveraging a $1.75 million Brownfields loan.

Missoula Leveraged a $1.75 Million EPA Load to Remediate the Sawmill District

KGVO News asked Becker to describe a Brownfields project.

“So a Brownfields project is a program within EPA (Environmental Protection Agency),” began Becker. “We have various types of funding. Brownfields are sites where some type of contamination or pollution is really preventing that site from redeveloping, so often it can be an old gas station or a laundromat, a sawmill, a rail yard, anything like that, where some kind of pollution is keeping that site from being returned to productive use.”

Becker said Brownfields projects encompass a multitude of environmental remediation.

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Becker said the Sawmill District contained a Great Deal of Methane Gas

“EPA has a variety of different grants and we partner with cities and counties and state governments to give them that money to assess the property and clean up the property,” she said. “Sometimes there might be asbestos burning, for example. I think here one of the contaminants was methane, and so we will provide the funding or do the work to do the cleanup, and that work can often really induce a lot of private investment from there.”

Mayor Hess provided a brief history of Missoula’s evolving economy over many decades.

Mayor Hess Described the Evolution of Missoula's Economy

“Our economy has been in transition,” began Mayor Hess. “In the 80s, we had four sawmills operating around the clock and these huge large-scale industrial landscapes. Missoula is transitioning into a new economy that's largely based on tech, largely based on higher education, healthcare, and tourism are a huge part of our economy, so having amenities like this, where we can create housing units; where can create commercial space; where we can create the amenities that support our modern economy, the EPA money from the Brownfields program is helping us transition into what our economy will be for the next several decades.”

Looking at the entire Rocky Mountain region, Becker said Missoula is a prime example of the new American West.

“It's really a story about the changing West, just like you talked about where a lot of economies might have been resource-based,” she said. “Then, as you know, priorities change or economic needs change, or maybe there's not as much of a need for lumber then what are you going to do? So it's it can be a really great partnership between local, state, and federal entities.”

The Old Sawmill District was initially used as a lumber mill beginning in 1900 and was left vacant in the early 1990s when sawmill production ceased.

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