Montana Public Radio

Nora Saks

Reporter

Nora Saks is a reporter and producer based in Butte, MT.

In addition to covering mostly Superfund news, she's the host and producer of Richest Hill, a podcast about the past, present and future of one of America's most notorious Superfund sites.

Learn more at www.buttepodcast.org

We're also very social: @buttepodcast on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Stay in touch: 978-996-5766 // nrv.saks@gmail.com

On Sunday afternoon, a wildfire broke out in a rural area north of Laurel, near Park City in Stillwater County. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for Benedict Gulch Road and Falling Star Road, and evacuations are in progress.

The growth of a large wildfire on the Flathead Indian Reservation has slowed. The Magpie Rock Fire near Dixon has burned 3,167 acres as of Saturday morning, and is now 30% contained. 

Recently, we let the cat out of the bag and told you that Butte’s Superfund parties reached a very big deal; one that will clean up the Mining City forever. That sounds like good news, and I hope it is. But as someone who lives right in the heart of a Superfund megasite, lately I’ve been experiencing some cognitive dissonance.

During his reign, President Trump has radically transformed the Environmental Protection Agency. I haven’t known how to square the EPA's cheerleading on Superfund with the Trump Administration’s overall track record on the environment, and whether all the action we’re seeing in Butte, Montana is the Superfund exception, or the rule.

This culvert and forebay pictured on May 28, 2019 are part of Butte's stormwater capture and treatment and system, which will be expanded and completed in the proposed Superfund cleanup plan.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Butte’s proposed $150 million Superfund deal was filed with a federal district court, according to Monday’s announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency. It's a big leap forward for the mine waste cleanup in the works for the Mining City. 

The historic Silver Bow Creek channel in Butte was an industrial sewer for over a century, and now conveys storm water seasonally. February 15, 2018.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Butte’s local government approved an overarching $150 million Superfund cleanup deal on Wednesday. This marks a new chapter for the Mining City, which has been on the nation’s list of most toxic sites since the 1980s.

Mark Mariano, bird protection specialist for the Berkeley Pit, holds disinfectant wipes in his bird shack overlooking the pit.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

In Butte, the epicenter of one of the most toxic industrial sites in the country, essential work during the COVID-19 outbreak can mean protecting humans, and the environment, from historic pollution. Nora Saks with Montana Public Radio’s Richest Hill podcast has this look at Superfund during the pandemic.

Libby Montana.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

The state of Montana was slated to take control of part of the Libby Asbestos Superfund site from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on April 1. But because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, that transfer is being postponed indefinitely.

After reporting on Superfund for several years, it’s obvious to me that everyone here wants the best possible cleanup for their town. And, there are very different definitions of what that means.

A lot of folks in Butte are fired up about bringing a stretch of the long-dead Silver Bow Creek back to life. And on the surface, I get it. Superfund is huge and complicated, full of thousands of pages of technical documents, and abstract legal requirements like water quality standards. Whereas a beautiful free flowing stream? That’s something tangible, easy to get jazzed up about.

Butte Superfund Coordinator Jon Sesso speaks during the event unveiling EPA's final cleanup plan for Butte, Feb. 13, 2020.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency last week announced a final Superfund deal for Butte, detailing a roadmap they say will permanently clean up one of the most intractable Superfund sites in the country.

The soil and groundwater at the Montana Pole and Treating Site south and west of Butte are contaminated with pentachlorophenols and dioxins from more than 40 years of wood treatment at the abandoned facility. February 11, 2020.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio


State environmental regulators say a former wood treatment plant in Butte needs a new cleanup plan to make the toxic site safer for both people and groundwater.

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