MTPR

Montana's Berkeley Pit Water Treatment Facility Begins Construction

Sep 25, 2018

Construction on a long-awaited water treatment facility that will pump and treat toxic water from the Berkeley Pit officially began Monday in Butte.

For more than 30 years, the Berkeley Pit, the former open pit copper mine on the east edge of Butte, has been filling steadily with toxic water coursing in from the city’s abandoned underground mining complex.

Earlier this year, Montana Resources and Atlantic Richfield, the two companies in charge of the Pit, announced a new plan to pump water, clean it and discharge it into Silver Bow Creek — four years before it’s projected to reach the critical level.

Atlantic Richfield announced today that they’ve started construction on the water management system.

“This pilot project will stop the rise of the Berkeley Pit, and delay reaching the critical water level,” says Loren Burmeister, a liability business manager with the Atlantic Richfield Company.

According to their press release, Montana Resources will install new pipelines and pumping stations, and Atlantic Richfield will build and operate the new plant that will treat the water.

Burmeister says the details are still being worked out, but “we’ll be treating water from the mine site through an off-site facility that will be located right near the visitor center. Basically, it will be polished there and then released to Silver Bow Creek and we’ll be treating up to approximately 10 million gallons a day.”

Because the Berkeley Pit is a Superfund site, MR and ARCO will jointly manage the project, and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality will provide oversight.

The new system is scheduled to be up and running in early- to mid-2019.