If you see strange metal canisters around Billings tomorrow, here is an explanation on what they are. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will collect air samples Tuesday using metal canisters to analyze the PCE site in midtown Billings. 

According to the press release sent out by the City of Billings, the canisters will be set up Tuesday morning and will be there for 24 hours. Signage will be posted next to the canisters to inform the public about what they are and why they are there. 

Sampling will take place in the Mountview cemetery area as well as Pioneer Park, South Park, Community Park, Optimist Park and North Park. EPA contractors and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality will also collect indoor air samples from roughly 50 homes through April 19-29. 

EPA will also announce updates on future planned projects at the beginning of May.

Collecting the air samples is part of Billings PCE Superfund site to monitor a contaminated plume of shallow ground water on the northeast side of downtown Billings. The plume contains chlorinated solvent spills from a former laundry business around the historic area of Billings. Trichloroethylene (PCE) and petroleum hydrocarbon pockets are also present in the groundwater as well. 

The health concerns of the PCE site include possible vapor intrusion that moves into the air and can collect in structures over the area. If a person breathes the air indoors, they can start to feel nauseous. The long term effects can include kidney and liver effects, neurological issues and possibly certain forms of cancer.

Efforts to clean the site first began fifteen years ago when the EPA began removing portions of the contaminated soil and created a barrier wall in several areas of the site. Vapor mitigation systems were also installed that helps limit vapor from entering the air. Chemicals were also injected into the soil to help prevent contamination in the groundwater. 

EPA plans to expand air quality investigations in 2022.