Montana Public Radio

Butte Montana

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.

Uptown Butte, MT.
Mike Albans / Montana Public Radio

This season on Richest Hill you’ve been hearing all about what mining meant for Butte, the toxic legacy it left behind, and about sprawling efforts to clean it up that have spanned more than 30 years.

And this week, something big is gonna happen.

EPA Region 8 toxicologist Charlie Partridge (R) told Butte's Board of Health during a Feb. 5, 2020 meeting that the federal agency does not think the results of a study on metals in baby poop show a public health emergency in Butte.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

There’s an ongoing debate in Butte about public health and exposure to heavy metals in the environment from historic and current mining operations. The most recent controversy flared up this week between scientists and the Environmental Protection Agency, over the contents of dirty diapers.

Nora Saks

A fire broke out early Thursday morning in Uptown Butte, gutting a historic building and ravaging several businesses. 

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