Montana Public Radio

Superfund

Who was Frank Little? And what could his grisly murder more than a century ago possibly have to do with Butte’s Superfund cleanup? Find out on Episode 3, coming soon.
(PD)

Hey there loyal Richest Hill listeners, Nora Saks here. I wanted to let you know that we’re hard at work on Episode 3.

Who was Frank Little? And what could his grisly murder more than a century ago possibly have to do with Butte’s Superfund cleanup? That’s one of the questions we’ll be asking in Episode 3, which is coming at you the first week of April. Stay with us for more about Butte's past, present and future!

At first glance, Butte, Montana's mutilated industrial landscape is often written-off as an ecological sacrifice-zone. Dirty, ugly as sin and regrettable, but necessary to supply the country with perhaps the most basic necessity of the Electrical Age: Copper. But if you take the time to really look carefully, what you find here will challenge, surprise and even change you.

Take a closer look at the copper that put the Richest Hill on the map; the city's storied past; and the nostalgia and sense of purpose that pervade the Mining City, right now on Richest Hill episode two.

Richest Hill episode 01: Get to know Butte, Montana, one of America's biggest Superfund sites and one of Montana’s most compelling places. Richest Hill is a new podcast about the past, present and future of Butte, America, "The Richest Hill on Earth."

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.

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.

Montana has a new Superfund liaison. The partial government shutdown delayed the Environmental Protection Agency from naming a permanent replacement for the acting liaison, but now that it’s over, Jacqui Barker is visiting communities around the state.

Butte residents gathered at a Superfund health study meeting to discuss a range of health concerns with agency officials and health department staff. October 30, 2018.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

A new analysis by the state health department says that the rate of new cancer diagnoses in Silver Bow County is about the same as the rest of Montana.

But at a council of commissioners meeting Wednesday night in Butte, state cancer epidemiologist Heather Zimmerman said that's not the case for cancer mortalities.

Downtown Libby, MT.
libbymt.com

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to hand off long-term management of the Libby Superfund site to the state in 2020. A state advisory team is getting ready to budget for unforeseen cleanup and monitor the site.

State Rep. Steve Gunderson says the Libby Asbestos Superfund Advisory Team’s goal is to ensure the EPA’s remediation plan lasts into the future, and that homeowners won’t have to pay for any future cleanup.

Giant piles of slag sit on along Highway 1 on the way into Anaconda, MT, July 11, 2018. Slag is a byproduct of copper smelting.
Nora Saks

A federal judge has lifted a gag order on the Anaconda Superfund cleanup. That means that after more than a decade of secrecy, Anaconda residents will soon be able to learn some details about the Superfund cleanup deal in the works for the Smelter City.

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