By Environmental Health Services

Do you have any building projects planned this summer?

With the spring cleaning out of the way, it’s time to start on that home to-do list that we all have in the back of our minds. Perhaps the list includes building a new shop, adding on an extra room, or finally knocking out a wall to create an open kitchen. Here are some important things to keep in mind for successful summer projects.


Research the Rules

Be sure to do some research, looking for any rules that may apply to your project from a state, local, or other agency.  It is much easier to know and understand these rules before starting a project, rather than having to stop halfway through to get a permit. With our short summers here in Gallatin County, waiting for a permit can really eat into construction days. It may seem unnecessary for something as simple as adding a bedroom or putting that bathroom in the “man-cave” but it really is a time and money saver in the end.


Some Gallatin County Building Guidelines

Septic Systems & Building: If you are adding a bedroom or bathroom and you are on a septic system, please call the Gallatin City County Health Department (GCCHD). Septic systems are sized based on calculations of living space within a home. Often times, the fix may be simple paperwork. Then when it comes time to sell the home, there won’t be any confusion about whether the system is appropriately sized to handle the amount of waste generated. Ultimately this will increase the longevity of your system. Call us at: 406-582-3120.

Removing Walls: If removing walls within a structure, building an addition, doing foundation work, plumbing work, or if you just aren’t sure, contact the local building authority. There are many reasons for this, but it all boils down to safety.

City of Bozeman:  406.582.2375 or

City of Belgrade:   406.388.4994 or

Town of Manhattan: 406.284.3235 or

Town of West Yellowstone: 406.646.7609 or

Outside of these areas: Don Buettner (State) 406.202.3494 or

Additions: Adding a mother-in-law apartment above your garage or other additional living space? Call GCCHD to find out about subdivision regulations. When a piece of property less than 20 acres is created, often times it is required to go through subdivision approval. This results in what is called a Certificate of Subdivision Approval or COSA. This document takes into account the size, location, layout, topography, hydrogeology and many other factors and determines the number of structures allowed, well and septic locations, etc.

Homeowner’s Associations: While GCCHD is not able to enforce individual subdivision’s covenants, it is in everyone’s best interest to avoid conflicts with neighbors.  These sort of complaints come into our office on a regular basis, and usually could have been solved with a simple phone call to the HOA board and a second phone call to neighbors to explain what is going on.


Uh Oh, I Found…

So the project is properly permitted and going full steam ahead. Then you discover… asbestos, mold, high radon or some other hazard. Here are some resources for mitigation. Please keep in mind with any of these situations if anyone is feeling ill or has other symptoms, please visit a doctor.


Any time that asbestos is suspected it is VERY IMPORTANT to immediately cease any activities that may disturb the area. Asbestos was very common in popcorn ceilings and some floor tiles. The fibers don’t become hazardous until they are airborne and able to be breathed in, hence creating any dust particles becomes dangerous when dealing with asbestos.

Please visit or call 406.444.5300. The asbestos control program will be able to help determine the best method to resolve the issue or to test the substance that is suspected to be made of asbesto.

For more information, check out our pages on Indoor Air Quality.


Short term radon test kits are available at the GCCHD’s Envrionmental Health office located at 215 West Mendenhall in Bozeman. If your kit comes back with a high concentration (the action level for high radon is 4 pC/l.), test again to confirm the results and contact a radon remediation professional. A list of professionals is maintained on the State of Montana website here or by calling toll free (1.800.586.0483). This list is not all inclusive, and as with all contractors, it is important to contact references and get multiple bids before signing any contracts or putting money down.

For more information, check out our pages on Radon.


Not all black mold is toxic! However, it is important to take basic safety precautions when dealing with such substances.  If anyone is feeling ill or has other symptoms, please visit a doctor. Most mold issues can be cleaned effectively by homeowners.  Here is a link to recommendations for mold cleanup from the EPA:

For mold cleanup outside of these parameters, it will generally involve hiring a professional.  A simple search online for an industrial hygienist will do the trick!

For more information, check out our pages on Mold.


With any of these projects or issues, please keep safety in mind first.  If you feel overwhelmed there is probably a professional that can be consulted.  The agencies listed above all do their best to help the community succeed in their goals and are available to answer any questions you may have.  Also—this list is just a starting point.  There may be other agencies that are involved, especially if these projects are commercial in nature. Best of luck with your summer projects!