Montana Public Radio

Butte Montana

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. 

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.

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.

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The novel coronavirus outbreak made for a Montana St. Patrick’s Day like few others in state history. Several counties this week instituted aggressive steps to reduce large gatherings in the name of public health.

Montanans adjusted their expectations this year and dialed it back a notch.

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — The St. Patrick's Day parade in Butte has been canceled because of concerns about the new coronavirus, based on the advice of the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department. However, Montana's high school basketball tournaments will still be held this weekend as scheduled.

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.

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 Thursday unveiled a final cleanup deal for Butte, marking a crucial turning point in the decades-long Superfund saga of Montana’s Mining City.

More than a century of copper mining in Butte helped electrify America and win both world wars. But, it also left behind a huge toxic mess that earned the city a Superfund site designation in the 1980s.

Matthew Haynes is a multi-genre writer, professor, and coffee shop owner in his hometown of Butte, America.  His work scours the human experience, interrogating loss, ambivalence, and difficult choices, all with a needlepoint specificity. In this interview, Matthew speaks to absence, the lure of Hawaii, and his own version of paradise.

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