MTPR

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

AR's operations manager, Ron Halsey, stands in front of the intake pipe that siphons water originating indirectly from the Berkeley Pit into this new water polishing plant. August 6, 2019.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

37 years ago, Atlantic Richfield abandoned an open pit copper mine in Butte and allowed it to flood with toxic mine water. Now, the company estimates they’re one month away from proving they’re in control of the Berkeley Pit. MTPR's Nora Saks got a sneak peek of their new water treatment facility and has more.

Nora Saks

Wednesday night, Anacondans got a rare chance to speak directly about their experience with Superfund to the national office that investigates the Environmental Protection Agency. And most of what they had to say wasn’t complimentary.

Anaconda residents have attended countless Superfund meetings over the last 36 years. But unlike the others, this one wasn’t hosted by EPA.

EPA Region 8's Betsy Smidinger and Greg Sopkin met with community stakeholders at Archives on Tuesday,  June 11, 2019.
Nora Saks

The national office that audits the EPA is in Anaconda this week holding a listening session about the Superfund cleanup there.

Superfund is a priority for the EPA, according to the new chief of EPA Region 8. Montana Public Radio's Nora Saks sat down with him during his first visit to Butte last month to find out more about his priorities.

EPA Region 8 Administrator Greg Sopkin chats with Butte residents Evan Barrett and Mick Ringsak after a community stakeholder meeting at the Butte-Silver Bow Archives on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

The national office that investigates the EPA wants to hear what people in Anaconda think about the Superfund cleanup there.

The independent Office of the Inspector General (OIG) looks for fraud, waste and abuse in the Environmental Protection Agency. It also evaluates EPA’s programs, like Superfund, and makes recommendations on how they could be improved.

Nora Saks

The company that operates the active copper mine in Butte, Montana Resources, is seeking permission to expand its tailings dam, so it can keep mining. But Atlantic Richfield, which shares responsibility for the Berkeley Pit, says one day the dam could collapse, fill the pit and destroy Butte if more isn’t done. Nora Saks sat down with the Montana Standard’s environmental reporter, Susan Dunlap, to find out more.

Cheryl Eagle (L) with Indian People's Action, and Geoff Gallus (R) with the Butte Area Rising Coalition, comfort Miki Chessmore (M), who's house was spray painted with racial slurs in early June. June 15, 2019.
Nora Saks

Over the weekend, the Butte community rallied in response to an incident in early June where a resident’s home was vandalized with racial slurs targeting Native Americans.

Eric Hassler (L) and Jon Sesso (R) are Butte-Silver Bow's Superfund operations manager and coordinator, pictured here at Catch Basin 8. May 28, 2019.
Nora Saks

The deadline for comments on EPA’s proposed changes to Butte’s Superfund cleanup is fast approaching. MTPR's Nora Saks went in the field with two of Butte-Silver Bow’s Superfund staff to find out more about the county’s take on the plan, their role, and what stormwater’s got to do with it.

Loren Burmeister (L) and Josh Bryson (R) are the liability business manager and operations project manager for Atlantic Richfield in Butte, pictured outside the company's local headquarters. April 22, 2019
Nora Saks

After more than 30 years, the Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Montana and Butte Silver Bow County are close to signing a final Superfund deal with Atlantic Richfield for the cleanup of the Butte Hill and creek corridors in town. Atlantic Richfield, the former American oil giant, is the company on the hook for most of the pollution caused by historic mining and smelting operations in Butte and across the upper Clark Fork River basin.

The Berkeley Pit.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Atlantic Richfield is proposing to build a new water treatment plant to further lower the level of the toxic lake inside the Berkeley Pit, in case the tailings dam that sits directly above it ever fails.

I live a mile away from the Berkeley Pit, the mile by mile and a half wide former open-pit mine, which is now filled with a 50 billion gallon toxic lake. Every time I visit, I leave hyper aware of the contradictions and compromises that go hand in glove with industrialization. I find myself wondering: who thought chiseling a colossal hole in the Earth was a good idea, and why? So today, let’s take a dive, figuratively, into open pit mining and some controversial decisions made late last century that changed Butte’s land, people, and environmental legacy forever. This is Episode 4: We Gave it to the Pit.

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