Montana Public Radio

Environmental Protection Agency

This section of Silver Bow Creek that runs through Slag Canyon in Butte will be rerouted in EPA's "proposed plan" for changes to the 2006 Record of Decision.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Updated and expanded, April 11, 5:45 p.m.

I’m down in the valley at the bottom of the Butte Hill with Nikia Greene, looking at two skinny headwater streams flowing towards Silver Bow Creek and the Clark Fork River downstream.

"This is Blacktail Creek. We’re just above where the confluence of Blacktail Creek and Upper Silver Bow Creek, at the Visitor’s Center. You can see a wetland in the background," Greene says.

The Montana Superfund liaison that the Environmental Protection Agency hired in February has quit. Her departure comes during a critical decision making period for both the Butte and Anaconda Superfund sites.

EPA Liaison Jacqui Barker quit as the agency’s community involvement coordinator for most of Montana’s Superfund sites after just two months on the job, citing personal reasons.

Uptown Butte, MT.
Mike Albans / Montana Public Radio

After more than 30 years on the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List, the federal agency has given Butte a date for finalization of a legally binding cleanup deal for the Butte Hill and the Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor.

Northey Tretheway, with the Restore Our Creek Coalition, gives outgoing EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento a plaque honoring his work in Butte on March 21, 2019.
Nora Sacks / Montana Public Radio

In Butte Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency set a date for an important milestone in the Mining City’s Superfund cleanup.

Next Friday, the agency says it will give federal court 135 days notice of filing a final consent decree laying out legally binding cleanup plans.

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.

EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento meeting with Anaconda residents on April 10, 2018
Nora Saks

An administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency who’s been praised by leaders in Butte and Anaconda has been promoted to become a senior advisor to the newly-confirmed head of the EPA.

Doug Benevento has been a frequent visitor to Montana, and helped negotiate final cleanup agreements for Butte and Anaconda. He’ll remain based in Denver, but with a broader portfolio than just the six states he’s overseen since 2017.

The water we drink is protected by federal rules, which are at the crux of a long-running fight over how far upstream that protection extends.

“Agriculture is land and water. When you’ve got control of the water, you’ve got control of the land,” said Blake Roderick with the National Waterways Conference.

Hans McPherson at his ranch in the Bitterroot Valley.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

A new federal rule that would roll back Clean Water Act protections across the country opened for public comment last week. If finalized, the rule would abandon enhanced protections the Obama administration proposed for a large portion of Montana’s stream mileage and wetlands.

L to R, Butte Superfund Activist Fritz Dailey, US Senator Steve Daines and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler at the confluence of Blacktail and Silver Bow Creeks in Butte, September 7, 2018.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio

With no deal yet signed to avert another partial government shutdown, progress on Montana’s Superfund cleanup sites is again in jeopardy. MTPR's Nora Saks spoke with a former senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency to understand what kind of impacts another shutdown could have in Montana.

Butte Montana is famous. It was at one time the biggest city between Chicago and San Francisco. It’s in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and sits at the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River, which flows all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Butte boomed and thrived for almost a century because of one thing: copper.

Butte’s massive copper deposit was key to America’s success. The “Richest Hill on Earth” literally electrified the nation, and made the brass in bullets that won World Wars I and II. But in the 1980s, the last of the big mines shut down. Now, most of the riches are gone, and Butte is struggling.

Pages