MTPR

Environmental Protection Agency

Mine headframes in uptown Butte, MT.
Josh Burnham

This week, the parties in charge of the Superfund cleanup of the Butte Hill and urban creek corridors agreed on a final cleanup deal, marking a turning point in the Mining City’s decades long Superfund saga.

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

Montana’s Mining City inches closer and closer to having a final Superfund deal for the cleanup of the Butte Hill and urban creek corridors, but the ink still isn’t quite dry.

Friday was the latest deadline for when the parties in charge of Butte’s Superfund cleanup were supposed to finish hammering out the last details of the legally binding deal. But they’re not going to meet it.

Treated water originating from the Berkeley Pit is discharged into Silver Bow Creek via a 24 inch buried pipe behind these rocks and manhole, Sept. 30, 2019.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

This week, for the first time ever, once toxic water from the Berkeley Pit, the abandoned open pit copper mine in Butte, is being treated and released into the headwaters of the Clark Fork River.

About 50 people attended EPA's Superfund meeting at the Anaconda senior center to learn about the agency's proposed updates to the surface water remedy for the Anaconda Regional Waste, Water, and Soils Operable Unit. September 17, 2019.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out an updated plan to protect Anaconda’s creeks from copper smelter waste. But some locals this week said they’re worried the federal government may back away from Montana’s strict water quality standards for heavy metals.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox cheered the Trump administration's rollback Thursday of an Obama-era clean water regulation.

The 2015 Waters of the United States rule was designed to protect many American wetlands and streams from pollution, but opponents argued it was too restrictive.

Those awaiting the final Superfund cleanup deal, or consent decree, for the Butte Hill and urban Silver Bow Creek corridor are going to have to wait a little longer.

Wednesday the EPA released the changes it wants to make to the existing 1998 legal cleanup plan for a 170 square mile portion of the Anaconda Smelter Superfund site. The proposed changes are aimed at better protecting creeks from contaminated runoff and erosion.

While a federal agency recently reauthorized a poison used in a predator-killing cyanide trap, more states are banning or limiting where they can be used. That includes around 10 million acres of public land in Wyoming.

The Berkeley Pit in Butte
Mike Albans

Today is the day when a milestone in Butte’s Superfund cleanup was supposed to have been reached: a final Superfund deal for the Butte Hill. Now the parties negotiating that agreement say they need a little more time. 

On his last day on the job, former EPA Regional boss Doug Benevento told the parties hashing out the deal that they had until August 12 to get it done.

AR's operations manager, Ron Halsey, stands in front of the intake pipe that siphons water originating indirectly from the Berkeley Pit into this new water polishing plant. August 6, 2019.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

37 years ago, Atlantic Richfield abandoned an open pit copper mine in Butte and allowed it to flood with toxic mine water. Now, the company estimates they’re one month away from proving they’re in control of the Berkeley Pit. MTPR's Nora Saks got a sneak peek of their new water treatment facility and has more.

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