Montana Public Radio

Environmental Protection Agency

Eric Hassler (L) and Jon Sesso (R) are Butte-Silver Bow's Superfund operations manager and coordinator, pictured here at Catch Basin 8. May 28, 2019.
Nora Saks

The deadline for comments on EPA’s proposed changes to Butte’s Superfund cleanup is fast approaching. MTPR's Nora Saks went in the field with two of Butte-Silver Bow’s Superfund staff to find out more about the county’s take on the plan, their role, and what stormwater’s got to do with it.

Barbara Miller with Habitat for Humanity, is concerned that the residential action level for lead in Butte that triggers cleanup is too high. May 23, 2019.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

On Thursday night, Ian Magruder stood up in front of a crowd of about 100 at the Montana Tech Library Auditorium in Butte and addressed a panel of officials from the state and federal environmental protection agencies.

"I stood here in this room 15 years ago and railed against the EPA for their proposed plan at the time. And I thought it was a joke. Today I feel differently."

Butte-Silver Bow County's Superfund Coordinator Jon Sesso stands in front of the overlook at Foreman's Park in Butte in June 2018.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Thursday night the EPA is taking public comment in Butte for the second time on the agency’s proposed changes to the Superfund cleanup plan for the Butte Hill and Upper Silver Bow Creek.

EPA released its “proposed plan” in April. It recommends some fundamental changes to the 2006 legally binding Superfund cleanup plan. That includes expanding stormwater capture and treatment, replacing some state water quality standards with federal ones in Butte’s creeks, and capping more mine waste.

Members of the grassroots Restore Our Creek Coalition express concerns about their vision for a reconstructed Upper Silver Bow Creek to EPA officials at a meeting at the Butte Chamber of Commerce. At left is Montana Standard Reporter Susan Dunlap
Nora Saks

EPA officials met with some of Butte’s most vocal Superfund cleanup activists Tuesday to update them on the activists’ goal to restore Upper Silver Bow Creek.

For years, members of the local Restore Our Creek Coalition have been saying that Butte’s Superfund cleanup won’t be complete unless Upper Silver Bow Creek is re-constructed as a free-flowing stream where kids can fish and play, after nearly a century of serving as a wastewater ditch.

The Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Treated water that was contaminated by toxic mining waste is being pumped out of Butte's Berkeley Pit.

The Montana Standard reports that officials last week started pumping out about 3 million gallons a day, which is roughly the daily amount of water entering in the pit.

The panel at an April 23, 2019 public meeting on the "proposed plan" included officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

On Tuesday night, Butte residents got their first chance to respond to the changes EPA wants to make to the Superfund cleanup plan for the Butte Hill and Silver Bow Creek corridor. 

Martin Hestmark with the EPA’s regional office, explained to the 80 or so people at the public meeting at Montana Tech that the crux of the plan focuses on managing stormwater. It runs off the steep Butte Hill and contaminates Silver Bow and Blacktail Creeks in the valley below.

The proposed plan includes seven significant changes, four of which are expansions of construction activities. Additional details are in the proposed plan.
EPA

Potential changes to the Superfund cleanup plan for Butte are on the table this week at the first of two public meetings in the Mining City.

On Tuesday night the EPA will explain and take feedback on proposed changes to the 2006 legal Record of Decision that governs the cleanup of the Butte Hill and Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor in town. The plan includes waiving some state water quality standards in Butte’s creeks and replacing them with federal ones.

Retired hydrogeologist Joe Griffin stands next to a groundwater sampling well in Butte's Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor. January 24, 2018.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency released the changes they want to make to the 2006 legal Record of Decision (ROD) which governs the Superfund cleanup of the Butte Hill and Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor.

David McCumber, editor of the Montana Standard, speaks at a rally calling for a complete clean-up of Silver Bow Creek, Nov. 14, 2017.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A proposal would set aside some money from a Superfund cleanup settlement to build a man-made creek through the center of Butte.

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.

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