- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2014

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - The owners of four homes built near a former Bozeman landfill filed a claim with the city, Gallatin County and the state seeking millions of dollars in damages and alleging gases leaking from the landfill are causing health problems and have made it impossible to sell their homes.

The notice of claim, which was filed on Jan. 24 and is a precursor to a lawsuit, seeks more than $3 million in damages per residence. It gives governmental entities 120 days to respond by either offering to negotiate or letting the matter proceed to court.

It argues the city should not have built the landfill along Story Mill Road and, having done so, should not have approved the Bridger Creek subdivision to be built near it.

The homeowners have listed health problems ranging from cancer and multiple sclerosis to stress, anxiety and nightmares. Two families said their dogs have health issues that could be related to the gases.

The houses were purchased for between $241,000 and $1.6 million, but the owners say they are now essentially worthless because they cannot sell them or borrow against them, the claim said.

The landfill was built in 1970 and closed in 2008. Testing done last spring indicated three areas of concern. The city notified residents and hired an environmental company to help address the situation. City Manager Chris Kukulski said the city has installed mitigation systems in more than two dozen homes, with two more pending. The mitigation system involves installing pipes in the homes to vent soil gas out through the roof.

“Our goal has been to deal with the issue, take responsibility for it and communicate with the public as we develop solutions to that problem,” Kukulski said, adding that the city plans to hire an engineer to address remediation of the landfill.

Attorney Edward Moriarty is one of the homeowners listed in the claim. He said he and his wife bought their home for $1.5 million, added $100,000 in improvements and planned to sell it to finance their retirement. But they have been unable to sell the house.

When asked if the homeowners included in the claim had mitigation systems installed in their homes, Moriarty said “the information about mitigation systems and all that is a whole different story. It’s not part of the notice of claim.”

Gallatin County Commissioner Steve White said he’s not sure why the county is named in the claim because the landfill and the subdivision are within city limits.