MTPR

Berkeley Pit

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.

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. 

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.

Yankee Doodle Tailings Impoundment. Butte, MT. Oct. 3, 2018.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Thursday night, state environmental regulators are holding a public input meeting in Butte on Montana Resource’s application to expand the tailings impoundment next to their active copper mine there.

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.

Bill MacGregor and Janice Hogan are the vice president and coordinator of the Citizens Technical Environmental Committee in Butte, seen in this photo from June 6, 2018.
Nora Saks

Billie Richardson is chatting with customers at Suited For Success, a small non-profit thrift store she runs in Uptown Butte. Richardson is 74 years-old. She was raised here, and for a while, moved around.

"I’ve lived a lot of places but I always come back because this is home," says Richardson. "Butte’s the last best place.”

Governor Bullock shovels the first dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Parrot tailing removal project in Butte, June 2018.
Nora Saks

On Thursday morning, close to a hundred people gathered at an old ball field across from Butte’s Civic Center and circled around haul trucks and excavators fit for Paul Bunyan, if he was a miner, and not a lumberjack.

Both the crowd and the heavy machinery were there for the groundbreaking ceremony on the Parrot tailings removal project.

Tom Laughlin of Anaconda, MT says he has an autoimmune disease and he's concerned about the health impacts of the old copper smelter in town.  He met with officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a public health listening sessi
Corin Cates-Carney

More than 35 years after the Anaconda copper smelter closed, federal health officials are partnering with state and local governments to visit the town and to listen to people’s health concerns possibly related to the toxic waste left behind.

From 1:30 to 7:30 Thursday afternoon at the Anaconda senior center, locals could stop by and talk to government scientists and doctors about their worries.

Albert "Kel" Kelly, (left) head of EPA's Superfund task force, and Doug Benevento updated the public on Butte Superfund cleanup issues in Butte, MT, April 11, 2018.
Nora Saks

Top national, regional and local officials from the Environmental Protection Agency made a stop in Butte on Wednesday to update the public on a laundry list of Superfund agency items. 

That included the gag order on the "conceptual agreement" reached in late January by the parties responsible for cleaning up the Butte Hill and upper Silver Bow Creek. 

A mining dump truck buries the abandoned Holy Saviour Church in the McQueen neighborhood in Butte during the expansion of the Berkeley Pit.
Walter Hinick, Montana Standard.

One of the longest serving newspaper photographers in the state had his job eliminated by Lee Enterprises last month.

Walter Hinick shot for Butte’s Montana Standard since 1976. Shortly after he lost his job, I had a chance to talk with him in Butte at the Mountain Con Mine overlook park.

Pages