Montana Public Radio

Superfund

Project Manager Elizabeth Erickson with Water and Environmental Technologies presents the results of their Silver Bow Creek restoration study in Butte, Jan. 14, 2020.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

A new study says it’s possible to rebuild a creek — destroyed by decades of mining — that once flowed through Butte. But it won’t be easy and it won’t come cheap.

After more than 30 years in limbo without a final cleanup agreement, the ink is drying on Butte’s big Superfund deal as we speak. What it means and why it matters has everything to do with what played out when Superfund came to Montana’s Mining City. So today we’re asking: back in those early days of Superfund, who were the players, and what was the game?

This is episode 06: Our Most Cherished Beliefs.

Close to 100 rural Montanans are taking on one of the largest corporations in the world Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Residents of Opportunity and Crackerville, Mont., say the Atlantic Richfield Co. — owned by BP — needs to go beyond what federal Superfund law requires and clean up arsenic pollution left over from a century of mining.

Uptown Butte, MT.
Mike Albans / Montana Public Radio

Federal officials Thursday revealed more specifics about the timeline and process surrounding the final deal for Butte’s Superfund cleanup, although some details are still murky.

In mid-October, the parties in charge of the cleanup announced they had reached agreement on a final, legally binding deal, marking a turning point in the Mining City’s three-decades-long Superfund saga.

The town of Libby.
courtesy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took another step this week toward transferring oversight of the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site to the state. EPA released the first of two plans outlining how the state will mitigate the spread of any remaining contamination in Libby and Troy.

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.

Tim Hilmo (L), Ron Halsey (M) and Greg Frisch (R) with Atlantic Richfield company stand in front of the point where treated water originating in the Berkeley Pit is being discharged into Silver Bow Creek in Butte. September 30, 2019.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

For the first time ever, once-toxic water from the Berkeley Pit, Butte’s abandoned open pit copper mine, is being pumped, treated and discharged into Silver Bow Creek.

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.

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