Transfer of 322 Acres to Prickly Pear Land Trust Puts East Helena Greenway Project on the Path to Reality

Prickly Pear Land Trust (PPLT) announces it has acquired 322 acres of former ASARCO lands from the Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG). From left to right: Betsy Burns, EPA; John Beaver, PPLT Board Chair; Mary Hollow, PPLT; Scott Walter, East Helena Public Schools Board Chair; Kelly Harris, East Helena City Council; Peter Elverum, East Helena City Attorney; Don Dahl, East Helena City Council. Photo Courtesy of PPLT.

East Helena, MT (December 31, 2020) —The East Helena Greenway Project, which was first envisioned by the community 10 years ago, is now on the path to full-fledged reality as a result of the transfer of 322 acres of former ASARCO lands to Prickly Pear Land Trust (PPLT). On December 30, after years of multi-stakeholder coordination and collaboration, the Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC (METG) conveyed title to 242 acres along the reconstructed Prickly Pear Creek (PPC) corridor south of Highway 12 and approximately 80 acres along PPC near Kennedy Park in East Helena to PPLT for development of an 8-mile trail system on remediated and revitalized former ASARCO lands. PPLT will work with the State of Montana Natural Resource Damage Program (NDRP) on design, construction and maintenance of the Greenway recreational access and educational amenities, using the $3.2 million allocated to the Greenway Project in the NRDP East Helena Natural Resource Restoration Plan that Governor Steve Bullock approved in 2019.

As 2020 comes to a close, the Greenway Project offers a new beginning for lands and waters in East Helena. The Greenway Project exemplifies how a community can honor its industrial past while positioning itself for economic opportunity, community health and quality of life. The former smelter lands near the newly constructed East Helena Public Schools (EHPS) elementary and high schools will be transformed into a trail system that will connect East Helena to Montana City. Once the Greenway trail and amenities are fully developed, PPLT will transfer the 322 acres to the East Helena Public Schools (EHPS) that has agreed to serve as the long-term steward of the Greenway land. Where possible, the trail will be Americans with Disabilities Act- (ADA) accessible to encourage people of all ages and abilities to enjoy this community asset.

The land transfer to PPLT culminates a 10-year partnership between local, state and federal governments—including the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Montana NRDP, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), Lewis and Clark County and the City of East Helena—as well as PPLT, EHPS, METG and the private sector.

“I want to congratulate the City of East Helena, the East Helena School District, the Prickly Pear Land Trust, and the Montana Environmental Trust Group on this significant milestone in the redevelopment and conservation of the former ASARCO smelter site and Prickly Pear Creek corridor,” Gov. Bullock said. “This land transfer helps position the Greenway project for success in what will no doubt be a tremendous asset to East Helena citizens, students and businesses for decades to come.”

Mary Hollow, PPLT Executive Director, said that, “Ten years ago, the City of East Helena asked Prickly Pear Land Trust to help envision trails and public access on this land. It’s incredible to celebrate this project coming to life. This community – with new schools, businesses, and now the Greenway Trail – is poised for a strong future. A project of this magnitude only happens with incredible partnerships, I commend those who have made this possible. With access to 322 acres of new outdoor space, we know that when kids achieve a greater connection to the outdoors, they experience happier and healthier lives. What an incredibly smart move for this forward-thinking community.”

East Helena Mayor Jamie Schell believes that “The Greenway project honors the hard-working, proud and dedicated people that built this community. The effort and dedication it took to make this project come to fruition by so many organizations and stakeholders cannot be understated. In an area where tales of trespass and memories of a few can be environmentally transformed and enjoyed by so many is a wonderful achievement. Leaving the Greenway for generations of families and visitors to safely enjoy for decades to come is something to be really proud of and I thank all of those that made it happen. History should never be forgotten, only built on. The legacy of the ASARCO smelter stands tall here in East Helena; it always has and with projects like this, always will.”

EHPS Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer said that “EHPS is thrilled to see this project moving forward – what an awesome educational resource this will be for our community.”

METG Managing Principal Cindy Brooks said “The Greenway Trail is the centerpiece of the future redevelopment of the former ASARCO lands in East Helena. PPLT’s willingness to assume responsibility for land ownership and trail construction and management is a testament to the leadership of a small, but powerful organization and its commitment to ensuring that this revitalized land will be an asset to the community of East Helena for generations. The Greenway Project reflects the strong partnership formed by PPLT, the City of East Helena, the East Helena Public Schools, EPA, the State of Montana and METG.”

Betsy Burns, EPA Project Manager for the East Helena Superfund site, said “the transfer of this land to PPLT for the Greenway Trail represents the culmination of more than ten years of shared vision, partnership and community collaboration. In 2010, PPLT first visited the East Helena site to explore the possibility of a trail. The following year, at an EPA-hosted design charette, the community’s vision for future redevelopment of former ASARCO property included a trail along PPC. With the support of all three levels of government, as well as METG, East Helena Public Schools, private land owners, local businesses and PPLT, the community’s vision is becoming reality.”

Kicking off in 2021, the Greenway project will be the latest and most ambitious project in Prickly Pear Land Trust’s Community Conservation portfolio. “The Greenway trail will provide public access to the reconstructed PPC corridor – which has not been accessible to the public in over 100 years – and another reason to celebrate East Helena’s heritage and encourage recreation, tourism and outdoor learning opportunities,” said Burns.

Next steps will be outlined by PPLT in early 2021. PPLT is a non-profit community land trust committed to the belief that open space is essential to the well-being of all communities. Spacious views, abundant wildlife, and recreational opportunities renew and revitalize its spirits. Maintaining traditional agricultural lands preserves Montana’s cultural heritage. PPLT seeks to preserve and protect the rural character of the Prickly Pear Valley and adjoining lands in Lewis and Clark, Jefferson, Broadwater and Powell counties through voluntary and cooperative means. Further, PPLT strives to connect people to their natural surroundings though trails and access to public lands. Sign up for PPLT’s newsletter to watch this project unfold by visiting www.pricklypearlt.org.

For more information or questions, contact Mary Hollow (mary@pricklypearlt.org).

METG is Trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust. For more information about METG and cleanup of the former ASARCO smelter, see: https://www.mtenvironmentaltrust.org.

This map shows the parcels conveyed to the Prickly Pear Land Trust for development of the Greenway Project 8-mile trail system.

Contact:
Mary Hollow (PPLT), 406-240-4907, mary@pricklypearlt.org
Mayor Jamie Schell (City of East Helena), 406-227-5321, mayorschell@easthelenamt.us
Ron Whitmoyer (East Helena Public Schools), 406-227-7700, rwhitmoyer@ehps.k12.mt.us
Cindy Brooks (METG), 617-448-9762, cb@g-etg.com
Betsy Burns (EPA), 406-457-5013, burns.betsy@epa.gov

Download a PDF of this press release here.

Download a PDF of the East Helena Greenway Project Fact Sheet, December 2020, here.

East Helena Greenway Project Fact Sheet, December 2020

METG has transferred over 320 acres of former ASARCO lands to the Prickly Pear Land Trust (PPLT) for the Greenway Project along Prickly Pear Creek. Review the fact sheet prepared jointly by PPLT and METG to learn more about the long-envisioned Greenway Project.

Download the fact sheet here (PDF)

This map shows the parcels conveyed to the Prickly Pear Land Trust for development of the Greenway Project 8-mile trail system.

Our Cleanup and Redevelopment Update Presented at Dec. 8, 2020 Virtual Meeting

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG), Trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust, updated the community on cleanup and redevelopment activities at the former ASARCO East Helena Smelter Facility during a Dec. 8, 2020, virtual public meeting.

Please download the Public Meeting presentation here (PDF).

EPA and METG to Hold Virtual Public Meeting about Former ASARCO East Helena Smelter Facility, Dec. 8

East Helena, MT (December 7, 2020) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG), Trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust, will host a virtual public meeting on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 to update the community on cleanup and redevelopment activities at the former ASARCO East Helena Smelter Facility.

What:
Virtual public meeting to provide updates about the former ASARCO East Helena Smelter Facility

Who:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC (METG), Trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust (the Custodial Trust)

When:
Tuesday, December 8, 2020, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. MT

Where:
Join by phone or online:

–           Phone:  1-301-715-8592, Meeting ID# 897 632 7748, or

–           Online: Join via Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/8976327748

Due to COVID-19 guidance, the meeting will be held virtually on Zoom and by phone.

Please see the flyer linked here for directions on how to join the meeting by phone, computer, or other device.

About the Montana Environmental Trust Group
The Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC (METG) is trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust (the Custodial Trust), which was established in 2009 as part of the global settlement of the ASARCO bankruptcy.

METG, as trustee of the Custodial Trust, has responsibility for owning, administering and remediating two federal and two state hazardous waste sites in Montana: the 2,000-acre East Helena Superfund Site as well as hundreds of mine-scarred acres at the Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex/Mike Horse Mine, the Black Pine Mine and the Iron Mountain/Flat Creek mining area. The Custodial Trust received $138 million to remediate and facilitate reuse of the four sites. The Custodial Trust has been managing remedial actions that have included construction of a sustainable cover system—the largest of its type in the country—and excavation of tons of contaminated material, as well as relocation of Prickly Pear Creek.

The Custodial Trust’s primary role is to protect human health and the environment in partnership with its beneficiaries—the United States, acting through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the State of Montana, acting through the Montana Department of Environmental Quality—and with community stakeholders.

Greenfield Environmental Trust Group, Inc. is the parent company of METG.

Media Contact: Christine Amrhine, Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC (METG), trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust (Custodial Trust), 540-846-3163, ca@g-etg.com

Download the PDF of this press release.

Montana Environmental Trust Group’s Prickly Pear Creek Realignment Project Wins International Engineering Award

East Helena, MT (September 2019) – The Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC, as trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust, and its contractor Pioneer Technical Services, Inc. received a 2019 Merit Award from the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) for the Prickly Pear Creek realignment project in East Helena, Montana.

The Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG) teamed with Pioneer Technical Services to relocate more than a mile of Prickly Pear Creek in order to reduce groundwater contamination and potential contaminant migration. The Prickly Pear Creek realignment was one of only four projects in the United States to receive a FIDIC award in 2019. The awards were presented at a September 9, 2019 gala dinner during the FIDIC International Infrastructure Conference in Mexico City, Mexico.

The Prickly Pear Creek realignment – completed by the Montana Environmental Trust Group and its contractor Pioneer Technical Services – moved 1.25 miles of Prickly Pear Creek in East Helena, Montana, away from a massive, contaminated slag pile and created wetlands, wildlife habitat, and conservation land.

The FIDIC awards support the organization’s goals of promoting the use of international FIDIC best practices and resources. The awards celebrate projects that foster principles of quality, integrity and sustainability and contribute to quality of life in communities.

“The Prickly Pear Creek realignment project is a cornerstone of our remediation and restoration work in East Helena, and we are honored for the project to receive this international recognition from FIDIC,” said Cindy Brooks, managing principal of METG and president of its parent company, Greenfield Environmental Trust Group, Inc.

The Prickly Pear Creek realignment has made immediate and lasting contributions to the cleanup and the East Helena community revitalization. The project protects human health and the environment by permanently reducing groundwater contamination and isolating an eroding 16-million-ton slag pile without need for future pumping or maintenance. By relocating the creek and establishing a natural-functioning stream, the project has created 50 acres of new wetlands, enhanced habitat for fish and wildlife, and 100 acres of new floodplain to mitigate downstream flooding.

METG is the court-appointed trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust, which was established in 2009 as part of the ASARCO bankruptcy settlement. METG is responsible for owning, remediating and redeveloping thousands of acres once owned by ASARCO. For more than nine years, METG has worked to address soil, sediment and groundwater contamination left by more than a century of lead smelting.

Pioneer Technical Services is an engineering and environmental services company headquartered in Butte, MT, with offices throughout the Intermountain West.

The project realigned a 1.25-mile stretch of stream away from contamination and was completed in four main phases of work. First, a bypass channel was created to temporarily divert the creek flow. The next phase included drainage and excavation of the creek, followed by reconstruction of the new creek bed and building an earth berm to stabilize the nearby eroding slag pile. Prickly Pear Creek flow was then diverted to the new creek bed. Lastly, the wetlands were reconstructed and the bypass channel was reclaimed.

The project won a 2019 national Grand Award in Engineering Excellence in the environmental category from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). The national award made the Prickly Pear Creek realignment project eligible to compete in the 2019 FIDIC International competition. Learn more about the ACEC award here.

About the Montana Environmental Trust Group

The Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC (METG) is trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust (the Custodial Trust), which was established in 2009 as part of the global settlement of the ASARCO bankruptcy.

METG, as trustee of the Custodial Trust, has responsibility for owning, administering and remediating two federal and two state hazardous waste sites in Montana: the 2,000-acre East Helena Superfund Site as well as hundreds of mine-scarred acres at the Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex/Mike Horse Mine, the Black Pine Mine and the Iron Mountain/Flat Creek mining area. The Custodial Trust received $138 million to remediate and facilitate reuse of the four sites. The Custodial Trust has been managing remedial actions that have included construction of a sustainable cover system—the largest of its type in the country—and excavation of tons of contaminated material, as well as relocation of Prickly Pear Creek.

The Custodial Trust’s primary role is to protect human health and the environment in partnership with its beneficiaries—the United States, acting through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the State of Montana, acting through the Montana Department of Environmental Quality —and with community stakeholders.

Visit the METG website at mtenvironmentaltrust.org. Watch a video about the Prickly Pear Creek project here.

Greenfield Environmental Trust Group, Inc. is the parent company of METG.

Media Contact: Christine Amrhine, Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC (METG), trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust (Custodial Trust), 540-846-3163, ca@g-etg.com

Montana Environmental Trust Group receives EPA’s Excellence in Site Reuse Award for Transformation of the East Helena Superfund Site

Federal, State And Local Partners Are Honored For Teamwork Critical To Revitalization Of Hazardous Waste Site

Front row, left to right: Rebecca Harbage (Montana Department of Environmental Quality); Jan Williams (Lewis and Clark County); Kathy Moore (Lewis and Clark County); Cindy Brooks (Montana Environmental Trust Group [METG); Karen Nelson (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service); Betsy Burns (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency); Gregory Sopkin (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
Back row, left to right: Ron Whitmoyer (East Helena Public Schools); Mary Hollow (Prickly Pear Land Trust), Drenda Niemann (Lewis and Clark County); James Schell (City of East Helena Mayor); Harley Harris (Montana Department of Justice Natural Resource Damage Program).

East Helena, Mont. (August 22, 2019) — At a ceremony today at Prickly Pear Elementary School in East Helena, Mont., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin presented representatives from the Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG) with EPA’s Excellence in Site Reuse Award for successful efforts to advance the cleanup and revitalization of the East Helena Superfund site. EPA also recognized the host of federal, state and local partners who have contributed to transformation of the site, which was hailed as a national example of the environmental, economic and community benefits that are possible at Superfund sites.

“This year, EPA is marking the 20th Anniversary of the Superfund Redevelopment Initiative by recognizing the people and communities that demonstrate the very best of what can happen when we work together to clean up contaminated sites and get them back into productive reuse,” said Gregory Sopkin, regional administrator for EPA Region 8. “The new schools, residential neighborhoods, and trail networks we celebrate today reflect the hard work and vision of the Montana Environmental Trust Group and the many partners who have been critical to the transformation of the East Helena Superfund site.”

“METG and our East Helena stakeholders are honored and grateful for EPA Region 8’s recognition of the partnerships that have shaped the successful revitalization of former ASARCO lands.  We are particularly grateful to EPA for its leadership and support of the community-backed reuse and renewal of the East Helena Superfund Site,” said Cindy Brooks, managing principal of the Montana Environmental Trust Group LLC (METG), trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust. “The trust model works because our lead agency (EPA) has fully embraced everything that can be done, and these are the results. We look forward to continuing our work together with all these stakeholders.”

EPA was joined at the ceremony by East Helena Mayor James Schell in recognizing several other partners who have contributed to the cleanup and revitalization of the Superfund site.  These included representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the Montana Department of Justice Natural Resource Damage Program, Lewis and Clark County Environmental Health Services Division, the City of East Helena, East Helena Public Schools, and the Prickly Pear Land Trust.

A century of lead smelting by ASARCO contaminated soil and groundwater and left behind a 16-million-ton toxic slag pile. Since the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust was created in 2009 as part of the ASARCO bankruptcy settlement, METG as trustee has been remediating and facilitating reuse of the Superfund site in collaboration with its beneficiaries—the United States, acting through EPA, and the State of Montana, acting through MDEQ—and East Helena stakeholders.

The award ceremony was held at Prickly Pear Elementary School, which opened in 2018 on land that METG as trustee donated to East Helena Public Schools (EHPS). Under construction nearby is East Helena’s first public high school; it’s scheduled to open in 2020 on land that METG sold to EHPS.  Next door, a 319-unit housing subdivision is planned on a parcel that Oakland Companies bought from METG. Nearby, a 254-acre tract was sold by METG to a company that anticipates developing a mixed-use project. These land sales generated nearly $3 million in proceeds for cleanup and paved the way for the kinds of beneficial, safe and sustainable reuses that the East Helena community has welcomed.

“What I point to as the example of success is East Helena,” Sopkin of EPA said during the ceremony. “Look at East Helena. Look at what has been done here. I’m just so excited to see this growing up. There’s going to be a subdivision there. There’s going to be a new high school…What the revitalization does is it brings people together…Communities like yours have great ideas.”

As part of the cleanup, more than a mile of Prickly Pear Creek was moved away from the slag pile in order to reduce groundwater contamination. The revitalized creek now flows through newly restored floodplain, habitat and conservation land. In collaboration with EPA and the State of Montana Natural Resource Damage Program, METG as trustee is exploring potential transfer of 350 acres of creek corridor to the nonprofit Prickly Pear Land Trust for inclusion in the proposed Prickly Pear Creek Greenway trail network.

For more information about METG, the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust, and the remediation and redevelopment of the former ASARCO lands in East Helena: https://www.mtenvironmentaltrust.org

For more on the East Helena Superfund site: https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0800377

For more on EPA’s Superfund Redevelopment Initiative: https://www.epa.gov/superfund-redevelopment-initiative

For more on the EPA Region 8 Excellence in Site Reuse Award: https://www.epa.gov/superfund-redevelopment-initiative/epa-region-8-excellence-site-reuse-award

Land Sales Produce Cleanup Funds and Make Way For New Public High School, Mixed-Use Development and Residential Subdivision, April 23, 2019

Montana Environmental Trust Group’s Prickly Pear Creek Realignment Project Wins National Engineering Excellence Award, May 13, 2019

About the Montana Environmental Trust Group
The Montana Environmental Trust Group LLC (METG), as trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust, is dedicated to the mission of protecting human health and the environment. The Custodial Trust’s responsibilities include owning, administering and remediating two federal and two state hazardous waste sites in Montana: the 2,000-acre East Helena Superfund Site as well as hundreds of mine-scarred acres at the Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex/Mike Horse Mine, the Black Pine Mine and the Iron Mountain/Flat Creek mining area. The Custodial Trust received $138 million to remediate and facilitate reuse of the four sites. The Custodial Trust has been managing remedial actions that have included construction of a sustainable cover system—the largest of its type in the country—and excavation of tons of contaminated material, as well as relocation of Prickly Pear Creek. METG is a subsidiary of Greenfield Environmental Trust Group, Inc.

Media Contact: Christine Amrhine, Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC (METG), 540-846-3163, ca@g-etg.com

EPA Regional Administrator to present East Helena partners with Superfund Reuse award on August 22

Contact: Richard Mylott, mylott.richard@epa.gov, 303-312-6654

WHO:
EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin
East Helena Mayor James Schell

Representatives from:

Montana Environmental Trust Group
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Montana Department of Justice Natural Resource Damage Program
Lewis & Clark County Environmental Health Services Division
City of East Helena
East Helena Public Schools
Prickly Pear Land Trust

WHAT:
EPA will present members of the Montana Environmental Trust Group with the Excellence in Site Reuse award for the extensive work that has been done to advance the revitalization of the East Helena Superfund Site.  EPA will also recognize various partners who have contributed to the cleanup and reuse of the site. Interviews and photo opportunities will follow the event.

WHERE:
Prickly Pear Elementary School
2520 Valley Drive
East Helena, Montana

WHEN:
9 a.m. MST

Background
EPA is awarding the Excellence in Site Reuse Award to the Montana Environmental Trust Group’s East Helena Team and recognizing the many federal, state and local partners who have contributed to the revitalization of the East Helena Superfund site.  These awards recognize the teamwork and partnerships that have led to the successful remediation and redevelopment of former ASARCO properties in East Helena, Montana. Lands impacted by over 100 years of lead smelting operations are being transformed into new schools, residential subdivisions and trail networks.

This year, EPA is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Superfund Redevelopment Initiative. East Helena offers a national example of transforming a complex hazardous waste site and achieving locally-supported reuse outcomes that will benefit the community for decades to come.

-END-

Montana Environmental Trust Group’s Creek Realignment Project Wins National Engineering Excellence Award

Washington, DC (May 13, 2019) – Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC, as trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust, and its contractor Pioneer Technical Services received a 2019 national Grand Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) for the Prickly Pear Creek realignment in East Helena, Montana.

Montana Environmental Trust Group’s (METG) Prickly Pear Creek relocation project won a national Grand Award in Engineering Excellence in the environmental category from ACEC. METG teamed with Pioneer Technical Services, Inc. to realign more than a mile of Prickly Pear Creek in East Helena in order to reduce groundwater contamination and the potential migration of contaminants.

From left to right, pictured are: American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr; Pioneer Technical Services, Inc. (Pioneer) Vice President Joel L. Gerhart; Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG) Director of Communications Christine Amrhine; METG Managing Principal Cynthia (Cindy) Brooks; METG Director of Environmental Programs Lauri J. Gorton; Pioneer Program Manager George A. Austiguy; Hydrometrics, Inc. Engineering Manager Mark Rhodes; Pioneer Vice President Tim Ranf; and ACEC Chairman Manish Kothari.

“We are honored to receive this prestigious award from ACEC,” said Cindy Brooks, managing principal of METG and president of its parent company, Greenfield Environmental Trust Group, Inc. “We take pride in what our team has accomplished in East Helena, especially knowing that the creek realignment safeguards the community and its drinking water supply and environment and provides a natural resource that will benefit the community for generations.”

The project team excavated, dried and delivered nearly 1 million cubic yards of saturated reservoir sediments, slag and other materials to the East Helena Superfund Site. The project protects human health and the environment by permanently reducing groundwater contamination and isolating the massive, eroding, 16-million-ton slag pile on the East Helena Site without need for future pumping or maintenance. The work has established a natural-functioning stream, creating 50 acres of new wetlands, enhanced habitat for fish and wildlife, and 100 acres of new floodplain to mitigate downstream flooding.

METG and Pioneer Technical Services, of Helena, MT, were honored, alongside 15 other national award winners, at the ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards Gala in Washington, DC on May 7, 2019. METG’s national award follows the 2019 ACEC-Montana award that was presented to METG and Pioneer for engineering excellence in the environmental category for the Prickly Pear Creek project in November 2018.

METG is the court-appointed trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust, which was established in 2009 as part of the ASARCO bankruptcy settlement. METG is responsible for owning, remediating and redeveloping thousands of acres once owned by ASARCO. For eight years, METG has worked to address soil, sediment and groundwater contamination left behind by more than a century of lead smelting.

Pioneer Technical Services, a nationally-recognized leader in performing environmental cleanup projects, is an engineering and environmental services company headquartered in Butte, MT with offices throughout the Intermountain West.

The Prickly Pear Creek realignment is a cornerstone of METG’s remediation and restoration efforts in East Helena. The creek realignment made immediate and lasting contributions to the Site cleanup and the East Helena community revitalization.

The project realigned a 1.25-mile stretch of stream away from contamination and was completed in four main phases of work. First, a bypass channel was created to temporarily divert the creek flow. The next phase included drainage and excavation of the creek, followed by reconstruction of the new creek bed and building an earth berm to stabilize the nearby eroding slag pile. Prickly Pear Creek flow was then diverted to the new creek bed. Lastly, the wetlands were reconstructed and the bypass channel was reclaimed.

The Prickly Pear Creek realignment – completed by the Montana Environmental Trust Group and its contractor Pioneer Technical Services, and recognized with a 2019 national award in engineering excellence – moved 1.25 miles of Prickly Pear Creek in East Helena, Montana away from a massive, contaminated slag pile and created wetlands, wildlife habitat, and conservation land.

About the Montana Environmental Trust Group

The Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC (METG), as trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust (the Custodial Trust), was established in 2009 as part of the global settlement of the ASARCO bankruptcy.

The Custodial Trust’s responsibilities include owning, administering and remediating two federal and two state hazardous waste sites in Montana: the 2,000-acre East Helena Superfund Site as well as hundreds of mine-scarred acres at the Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex/Mike Horse Mine, the Black Pine Mine and the Iron Mountain/Flat Creek mining area. The Custodial Trust received $138 million to remediate and facilitate reuse of the four sites. The Custodial Trust has been managing remedial actions that have included construction of a sustainable cover system—the largest of its type in the country—and excavation of tons of contaminated material, as well as relocation of Prickly Pear Creek.

The Custodial Trust’s primary role is to protect human health and the environment in partnership with its beneficiaries—the United States, acting through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the State of Montana, acting through the Montana Department of Environmental Quality —and with community stakeholders.

Greenfield Environmental Trust Group, Inc. is the parent company of METG.

Visit the METG website at mtenvironmentaltrust.org. Learn more about the Prickly Pear Creek project here.

Media Contact: Christine Amrhine, Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC (METG), trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust (Custodial Trust), 540-846-3163, ca@g-etg.com

Land Sales Produce Cleanup Funds and Make Way For New Public High School, Mixed-Use Development and Residential Subdivision

East Helena, MT (April 23, 2019) – The Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC, as trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust, recently sold three parcels comprising almost 400 acres at its East Helena Superfund Site (the East Helena Site), generating nearly $3 million in sale proceeds to help pay for additional cleanup activities and paving the way for mixed-use and residential developments as well as a new public high school.

In October 2018, the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust (the Custodial Trust) completed the sale of the 254-acre Lamping Field property to an affiliate of Butte, Montana-based Town Pump, Inc. (Town Pump) for a mixed-use development. The Custodial Trust also closed on the sale of two Dartman Field parcels—35 acres in November 2018 to the East Helena Public Schools (EHPS) for a new high school, and 100 acres in December 2018 to Billings, Montana-based Oakland Companies for a 319-unit, single-family residential development.

The Custodial Trust’s land sales mark a turning point in the transformation of one of the country’s most complex hazardous waste sites, and the integration of community-supported reuses into remediation of former American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) lands in East Helena.

According to Betsy Burns, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) project manager for the East Helena Site, “EPA supported the appointment of the Montana Environmental Trust Group to serve as Trustee of the Custodial Trust because of their track record of successfully remediating and redeveloping large, complex federal Superfund sites throughout the country. The Trust has far exceeded EPA’s goals and expectations in East Helena.”

According to Harley Harris, who oversees the State of Montana’s Natural Resource Damage Program, “The combined effect of the three transactions. . . represents a significant milestone in the implementation of the ASARCO bankruptcy settlement and the intended redevelopment of the former ASARCO lands.”

A century of lead smelting by ASARCO at the East Helena Site contaminated soils, sediments and groundwater. In December 2009, the Custodial Trust was established as part of the global settlement of the ASARCO bankruptcy. As part of the settlement, the Custodial Trust assumed responsibility for owning, administering, remediating and facilitating reuse of thousands of acres of contaminated land formerly owned by ASARCO in Montana, including the East Helena Site.

The majority of corrective measures designed to address contamination from the former smelter have been implemented. The Custodial Trust has already documented reductions in groundwater contamination from the smelter. The Custodial Trust, in its ongoing partnership with its beneficiaries—the United States and the State of Montana—and the East Helena stakeholders, looks forward to implementing final cleanup measures and paving the way for redevelopment of the remaining ASARCO lands.

The 2018 land sales have helped fulfill the Custodial Trust’s goal of returning former ASARCO lands to productive reuse in a manner that protects human health and the environment while benefiting the East Helena community.


This map of the East Helena Superfund Site shows the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust’s land sales since 2012, including the sale in 2018 of three parcels totaling nearly 400 acres that generated $3 million for cleanup and paved the way for a new high school and mixed-use and housing projects.

Plans for Mixed-Use Development (Lamping Field)

As part of its efforts to market and sell Lamping Field, the Custodial Trust partnered with the Montana Business Assistance Connection (MBAC), a non-profit economic development corporation. In 2017, MBAC received a grant from the Montana Department of Commerce’s Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund to help position Lamping Field for sale—and the Custodial Trust matched the grant funds.

In late 2018, the sale of 254 acres at Lamping Field to Town Pump put a pivotal parcel into the hands of an owner-operator of more than 200 businesses, including hotels, casinos and convenience stores, in Montana and Idaho. In East Helena, Town Pump operates two convenience stores, and the company’s purchase at Lamping Field comes as part of its aggressive acquisition and development strategy.

The Town Pump land purchase has already had positive ripple effects.

“The Town Pump transaction helped catalyze the subsequent land sales at nearby Dartman Field,” said Cindy Brooks, the Custodial Trust’s managing principal and the president of the Greenfield Environmental Trust Group, Inc., parent of the Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG), trustee of the Custodial Trust.

Brooks said the Town Pump purchase will encourage future reuse of other tracts too. “There’s always synergy. It sounds corny, but if you build it, others will come,” Brooks said.

East Helena High School to Open in 2020 (Dartman Field)

Acquisition of 35 acres at Dartman Field has allowed the EHPS to proceed with construction of the first-ever East Helena High School. It will be built near the newly opened Prickly Pear Elementary School, which is located on a 50-acre Dartman Field parcel that the Custodial Trust donated to the EHPS in 2016.

The high school was made possible by an act passed by the Montana legislature in 2017, followed by two ballot referenda approved by East Helena School District voters that, first, authorized issuance of a $29.5 million bond to build the high school, and second, approved acquisition of the Dartman Field parcel for the high school. Finally, in November 2018, the Dartman Field Minor Subdivision—East Helena’s first ever subdivision—created the EHPS parcel. Construction of the new high school began in March 2019.

According to EHPS Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer, “METG’s diligence, commitment and thoughtful approach to remediating and redeveloping the former (ASARCO) lands have helped transform the community of East Helena. Together, METG and EPA have made a lasting contribution to the EHPS mission to create an educational experience for our students that is designed to cultivate an appreciation of learning, a sense of self-worth and mutual respect for their world and each other.”

Planned 319-Unit, Single-Family Residential Subdivision

The immediate proximity of the planned East Helena High School and the new Prickly Pear Elementary School helped motivate Gary Oakland to buy 100 acres at Dartman Field for development of the 319-home, single-family Highland Meadows Subdivision.

According to Brooks, “Living near a school comes with many advantages for homeowners, families and communities. Gary Oakland and his team clearly understood those benefits in making their decision to acquire the Dartman Field property. Town Pump’s plans for a mixed-used development on nearby Lamping Field is also consistent with the Highland Meadows subdivision by Oakland, whose company has built hundreds of homes in Montana and elsewhere in the Rocky Mountain West.”

Oakland’s residential project is aligned with the reuse plan envisioned by the City of East Helena for this area, as reflected in the decisions by the City Planning Board, City Zoning Commission and City Council to rezone the property from an agricultural to a residential district in 2017. Oakland has been working with the City to secure approval of the Highland Meadows subdivision so that the company can break ground on the first phase of development in the summer of 2019.

According to Gary Oakland, the Custodial Trust has “developed a unique and much-needed business model to restore these devastated lands back into productive use. You are to be commended. I hope that we may work with you again in the near future.”

Proposed Public Access to Prickly Pear Creek

As part of the Custodial Trust’s remediation of the East Helena Site, more than a mile of Prickly Pear Creek was realigned to reduce groundwater contact with soil contaminants. The creek now flows through hundreds of acres of newly restored floodplain, habitat and conservation land. With the creek’s rehabilitation mostly complete, in collaboration with EPA and the State of Montana Natural Resource Damage Program, the Custodial Trust is actively exploring the potential transfer of 350 acres in the creek corridor to a long-term steward to ensure public recreational access to the waterway for generations to come.

The nonprofit Prickly Pear Land Trust has expressed interest in acquiring acreage for inclusion in the proposed Prickly Pear Creek Greenway trail linking East Helena to communities nearby. East Helena stakeholders have also voiced support for creation of a recreational resource along the creek.

“There’s currently no public access to Prickly Pear Creek or significant dedicated green space in the City of East Helena, which is one of the many reasons the Custodial Trust supports implementation of this beneficial public use,” Brooks said.

The Custodial Trust’s Prickly Pear Creek revitalization project received a prestigious, national 2019 Grand Award in the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Engineering Excellence

Awards. The Prickly Pear Creek project also is a finalist for the ACEC 2019 Grand Conceptor Award, which signifies the best overall engineering achievement in the country.

The three land sales generated a combined $2,881,270.83 for the East Helena Cleanup Account. Here are highlights of each sale:

Lamping Field: Land sale for the planned mixed-use development

Acres:                         Approx. 254
New Owner:             East Helena Opportunities LLC, affiliate of Town Pump, Inc.
Date:                          October 22, 2018 

Dartman Field: Land sale for the planned East Helena High School

Acres:                          Approx. 35
New Owner:              East Helena Public Schools, School District No. 9
Date:                           November 8, 2018 

Dartman Field: Land sale for the planned 319-unit, single-family residential subdivision

Acres:                          Approx. 100
New Owner:              Highland Meadows, LLC, affiliate of Oakland Companies
Date:                           December 11, 2018

About the Montana Environmental Trust Group

The Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG), as trustee of the Custodial Trust, was established in 2009 as part of the global settlement of the ASARCO bankruptcy. The Custodial Trust’s primary role is to protect human health and the environment in partnership with its beneficiaries—the United States, acting through the EPA, and the State of Montana, acting through the Montana Department of Environmental Quality —and with community stakeholders.

The Custodial Trust’s responsibilities include owning, administering and remediating two federal and two state hazardous waste sites in Montana: the 2,000-acre East Helena Site as well as hundreds of mine-scarred acres at the Upper Blackfoot Mining Complex/Mike Horse Mine, the Black Pine Mine and the Iron Mountain/Flat Creek mining area.

The Custodial Trust received $138 million to remediate and facilitate reuse of the four sites. The Custodial Trust has been managing remedial actions that have included construction of a sustainable cover system—the largest of its type in the country—and excavation of tons of contaminated material, as well as relocation of Prickly Pear Creek.

METG is a subsidiary of Greenfield Environmental Trust Group, Inc.

Media Contact: Christine Amrhine, Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC (METG), trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust (Custodial Trust), 540-846-3163, ca@g-etg.com

EPA celebrates reuse success with groundbreaking of East Helena High School

Partnership transforms another portion of Superfund site

Groundbreaking ceremony for the future East Helena High School. The school is slated to open to students in 2020. Photo courtesy of EPA

Contact Information:
Richard Mylott (mylott.richard@epa.gov)
303-312-6654

DENVER — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) celebrated a milestone achievement with the East Helena Public Schools and other agencies and organizations at a ground-breaking ceremony at the future location of the East Helena High School at 2760 Valley Drive in East Helena, Montana yesterday.

The East Helena Public Schools (EHPS) high school will welcome an anticipated 500-600 students. The opening ceremony was held yesterday, Monday, March 18, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. East Helena officials plan to open the $29.5 million school to students in 2020.

“The opening of the East Helena High School exemplifies what can be achieved when communities come together to focus on Superfund site reuse,” said EPA Assistant Regional Administrator Betsy Smidinger.  “Today, we celebrate a partnership that has made a shared vision a reality.”

EPA, EHPS, the Montana Environmental Trust Group LLC (METG), and the State of Montana worked with community residents to identify ways to reuse property that is protective of public health and the environment.METG, as trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust, sold 35 acres at the East Helena Superfund site to EHPS for the new high school in November 2018.

“METG’s diligence, commitment and thoughtful approach to remediating and redeveloping the former ASARCO lands have helped transform the community of East Helena,” said East Helena School Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer. “Together, METG and EPA have made a lasting contribution to the EHPS mission to create an educational experience for our students that is designed to cultivate an appreciation of learning, a sense of self-worth and mutual respect for their world and each other.”

In 2011, EPA hosted a redevelopment planning design charrette to gather and synthesize ideas from a broad group of stakeholders — including the State of Montana, the Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC, local government representatives, and residents — to determine how 2,000 acres of property at the East Helena Superfund site might be redeveloped. The group met regularly throughout the cleanup to share information, provide feedback and consider future potential uses for the former ASARCO property.

 “EPA has enjoyed a very cooperative and collaborative relationship with METG and essentially everyone involved,” said Betsy Burns, EPA’s project manager for the site.

As part of cleanup activity at the East Helena Superfund site, the Custodial Trust designed and implemented interim measures that were approved by EPA to address contaminated soils and groundwater at and from the site. EPA and the Trust worked with local government agencies to implement land and groundwater use controls to ensure the protectiveness of the soil remedy, limit groundwater use and protect residents from exposure to contamination.

The East Helena site was added to EPA’s National Priorities List as a Superfund site in 1984.

Read entire press release on the EPA website here.