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

Retired hydrogeologist Joe Griffin stands next to a groundwater sampling well in Butte's Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor. January 24, 2018.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency released the changes they want to make to the 2006 legal Record of Decision (ROD) which governs the Superfund cleanup of the Butte Hill and Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor.

This section of Silver Bow Creek that runs through Slag Canyon in Butte will be rerouted in EPA's "proposed plan" for changes to the 2006 Record of Decision.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Updated and expanded, April 11, 5:45 p.m.

I’m down in the valley at the bottom of the Butte Hill with Nikia Greene, looking at two skinny headwater streams flowing towards Silver Bow Creek and the Clark Fork River downstream.

"This is Blacktail Creek. We’re just above where the confluence of Blacktail Creek and Upper Silver Bow Creek, at the Visitor’s Center. You can see a wetland in the background," Greene says.

In August 1917, Frank Little was the victim of a grisly murder in Butte. Little was a labor organizer who came to Butte to unify and radicalize Butte’s miners in their fight against the Anaconda Mining Company for higher wages and safer working conditions. Most historians believe that the Anaconda Company was behind Little’s killing, but no one knows for sure. A note pinned to his underwear threatened, "Others take notice: first and last warning," along with the numbers 3-7-77, the calling card of frontier vigilantes.

The Montana Superfund liaison that the Environmental Protection Agency hired in February has quit. Her departure comes during a critical decision making period for both the Butte and Anaconda Superfund sites.

EPA Liaison Jacqui Barker quit as the agency’s community involvement coordinator for most of Montana’s Superfund sites after just two months on the job, citing personal reasons.

Uptown Butte, MT.
Mike Albans / Montana Public Radio

After more than 30 years on the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List, the federal agency has given Butte a date for finalization of a legally binding cleanup deal for the Butte Hill and the Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor.

Who was Frank Little? And what could his grisly murder more than a century ago possibly have to do with Butte’s Superfund cleanup? Find out on Episode 3, coming soon.
(PD)

Hey there loyal Richest Hill listeners, Nora Saks here. I wanted to let you know that we’re hard at work on Episode 3.

Who was Frank Little? And what could his grisly murder more than a century ago possibly have to do with Butte’s Superfund cleanup? That’s one of the questions we’ll be asking in Episode 3, which is coming at you the first week of April. Stay with us for more about Butte's past, present and future!

At first glance, Butte, Montana's mutilated industrial landscape is often written-off as an ecological sacrifice-zone. Dirty, ugly as sin and regrettable, but necessary to supply the country with perhaps the most basic necessity of the Electrical Age: Copper. But if you take the time to really look carefully, what you find here will challenge, surprise and even change you.

Take a closer look at the copper that put the Richest Hill on the map; the city's storied past; and the nostalgia and sense of purpose that pervade the Mining City, right now on Richest Hill episode two.

Richest Hill episode 01: Get to know Butte, Montana, one of America's biggest Superfund sites and one of Montana’s most compelling places. Richest Hill is a new podcast about the past, present and future of Butte, America, "The Richest Hill on Earth."

L to R, Butte Superfund Activist Fritz Dailey, US Senator Steve Daines and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler at the confluence of Blacktail and Silver Bow Creeks in Butte, September 7, 2018.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio

With no deal yet signed to avert another partial government shutdown, progress on Montana’s Superfund cleanup sites is again in jeopardy. MTPR's Nora Saks spoke with a former senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency to understand what kind of impacts another shutdown could have in Montana.

Butte Montana is famous. It was at one time the biggest city between Chicago and San Francisco. It’s in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and sits at the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River, which flows all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Butte boomed and thrived for almost a century because of one thing: copper.

Butte’s massive copper deposit was key to America’s success. The “Richest Hill on Earth” literally electrified the nation, and made the brass in bullets that won World Wars I and II. But in the 1980s, the last of the big mines shut down. Now, most of the riches are gone, and Butte is struggling.

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