Montana Public Radio

Butte Montana

A 2019 photo of the M&M bar sign in Butte, MT.
Josh Burnham

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A fire gutted the historic M&M Cigar Store in Butte early Friday, taking with it 131 years of the Mining City's history.

“It’s a total loss. No question,” said Jim Merrifield, a battalion chief with the Butte-Silver Bow Fire Department. No one was injured and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

The state of Montana is adding extra cleanup measures at a former wood treatment plant turned Superfund site in Butte.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality on Monday released its reasons for pursuing more stringent environmental protection, among them that levels of the contaminant dioxin at the Montana Pole & Treating Plant fall short of current cleanup standards.

Eddie Cotton Jr. at the Montana Folk Festival, July 12, 2019.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

The Montana Folk Festival in Butte has been postponed for the second year in a row due to COVID-19. Festival Director George Everett said that although it is hard to predict the future, summer music festivals in July don’t seem to be in the cards for 2021.

A massive front end loader deposits the first shovels of dirt removed from the Parrot tailings site into a dump truck at the old ball field behind the Civic Center in Butte, June 2018.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

A major mine waste cleanup in central Butte is entering a new phase of tailings removal in February.

From the wars of the copper kings to the environmental fallout from a century of mining, follow the characters and stories of Butte, Montana to see how historic city is looking to the future. MTPR's Nora Saks details Butte’s past, present and future on Richest Hill.

Listen Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. on Montana Public Radio. Or listen anytime online or wherever you get your podcasts.

Right after talking to a psychic about my own path and Butte’s, I felt comforted. It felt good to let someone else take the wheel for a while, you know? But that comfort turned out to be temporary. Soon, those vague answers about the future only gave birth to more questions. 

It got me wondering, is it really possible for a town that was built on extraction to experience a complete paradigm shift - towards reclamation and renewal? What does moving on from a toxic mess of this magnitude even mean? And what could Butte stand for in a post Superfund world? 

EPA Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento (R) joined Anaconda's Chief Executive Officer Bill Everett, U.S. Senator Steve Daines, and local business leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony for a new hotel complex in Anaconda. October 13, 2020.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency’s second in command returned to Butte and Anaconda this week to celebrate major milestones in their decades-long Superfund cleanups and talk about next steps.

The core of the Superfund deal itself, and how it proposes to solve Butte’s lingering environmental problems forever, is really important and complicated, both legally and technically. And no wonder. Three levels of government — the county, state and feds — plus a former oil company, all had to settle their differences, and agree on how to clean up, once and for all, the rest of the environmental bust left behind by Butte’s historic copper mining boom.

So today, we’re gonna try to get our arms all the way around it. And take a closer look at what’s actually in this very big deal and whether the Mining City believes that after all of its sacrifices, this is a big enough reward. This is Episode 9: Butte Never Says Die.

This culvert and forebay pictured on May 28, 2019 are part of Butte's stormwater capture and treatment system, which will be expanded and completed in the  Superfund cleanup plan.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

A final deal signed by a federal judge this week outlining cleanup of century old mining waste in Butte means there’s going to be a flurry of work happening in the center of town. 

U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon on Wednesday gave his final stamp of approval to an overarching Superfund cleanup deal for the Butte Hill and its headwater streams below.

Silver Bow Creek in Butte, Montana.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Butte’s $150 million cleanup deal is at last carved in legal stone after more than a decade of negotiations, and more than three decades on the Superfund National Priorities List.

On Wednesday, a federal district judge gave his final stamp of approval to an overarching Superfund settlement for the Butte Hill and its headwaters streams below.

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