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Atlantic Richfield

Weather Pushes Back Project To Treat Berkeley Pit Water

Mar 14, 2019
The Berkeley pit in Butte, Montana, as seen from above.
NASA (CC-BY-2)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Last month's harsh winter weather has delayed a pilot project that aims to stop the rise of toxic water in Butte's Berkeley Pit.

Montana Resources' Mark Thompson tells The Montanan Standard the mining pit is still frozen over, construction has slowed and the project to treat and discharge the water isn't expected to begin until June.

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.

Giant piles of slag sit on along Highway 1 on the way into Anaconda, MT, July 11, 2018. Slag is a byproduct of copper smelting.
Nora Saks

A federal judge has lifted a gag order on the Anaconda Superfund cleanup. That means that after more than a decade of secrecy, Anaconda residents will soon be able to learn some details about the Superfund cleanup deal in the works for the Smelter City.

The Washoe Smelter Stack in Anaconda.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Anaconda residents are one step closer to finding out more details about the final Superfund cleanup deal and plan that’s been under wraps for the last four months.

Mark Mariano does daily waterfowl observations rounds at the Berkeley Pit during migration season. October 2018.
Nora Saks / MTPR

With the fall bird migration now in full swing, the companies in charge of Butte’s Berkeley Pit are using their new and improved scientific bird-hazing program to keep birds away. This week, their program got put to the test.

Two years ago this November, Butte made national headlines when several thousand late-migrating snow geese landed on the Berkeley Pit, exhausted and died. The huge numbers overwhelmed the companies jointly in charge of managing the former open pit copper mine and their usual methods of hazing birds off the massive toxic lake it now contains. 

Butte locals took a close look at the master land use plan for the city's creek corridors at a meeting at Butte Brewing Company. November 1, 2018.
Nora Saks

When most people picture the Silver Bow Creek corridor in the middle of Butte, they think of a forgotten drainage ditch and an industrial wasteland.

But now, Atlantic Richfield, the BP-owned company in charge of cleaning it up, says they have a plan to turn it into a lush greenway, the likes of which could rival the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula. With interwoven trails and wetlands, and parks and playgrounds beckoning families to hang out. A natural paradise and a center of activity.

Cindy Perdue-Dolan (L) a field representative with Senator Daines' office looks on as Sister Mary Jo MacDonald shows pictures of the historic Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor. Members of ROCC and Montana's Board of Investments are also pictured.
Nora Saks / MTPR

At sunrise on Halloween, the Butte Archives conference room was full of dozens of people dressed not in scary costumes - but in suits.

All of the major players who are brokering Butte’s final Superfund cleanup deal were there - including elected officials, top staff and attorneys from local and state government, Atlantic Richfield Company, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Josh Bryson is the operations project manager with Atlantic Richfield Company. He's pictured outside the company headquarters in Butte. October 30, 2018.
Nora Saks / MTPR

This week, Butte residents will get an up-close look at what the city’s major creek corridors could look like in the future, once the Superfund cleanup is finished. 

This summer and fall, the parties in charge of Butte’s Superfund cleanup have been holding a series of public workshops to design what the Silver Bow and Blacktail Creek corridors in the center of town will be used for after the cleanup is over. Now, they’re ready to unveil their comprehensive land use plan for the creek areas at a culminating workshop and presentation this week.

The Parrot Tailings removal project is underway in Butte. September 2018.
Nora Saks

Near Butte’s Civic Center, a massive construction project is going on across the street, in the heart of town. Mammoth excavators gouge out a colossal hole in the ground. Jumbo haul trucks whisk 70 ton loads of chewed-up earth away on repeat.

The viewing stand at the Berkeley Pit in September.
Nora Saks / MTPR

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

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