MTPR

Silver Bow Creek

From Evel Knievel to a 'Great Flood' and on to the dawning of the Superfund era, Episode 5 looks at the origins of the government program designed to force whoever made the mess to clean it up.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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