MTPR

The Berkeley Pit

The Vortex Ring Avian Deterrent shoots a 200 mph blast of air to keep birds away from the toxic Berkeley Pit in Butte, MT.
Nora Saks

High above the Berkeley Pit, Butte’s famous copper mine turned toxic lake, a mini drone swoops and soars, then catches a thermal and floats. With its dark wings and yellow beak, it could easily be mistaken for a bird of prey. Just a few minutes after take off, it is.

“Oh, here comes somebody … bald eagle …"

Berkeley Pit bird cannon, Butte, MT
Mark Thompson/Montana Resources

The people who manage the Berkeley Pit want to use lasers and cannons to try to save lives of migratory birds. Thousands of geese were killed last fall in the poisonous water of Butte’s Berkeley Pit. It was an environmental catastrophe that Mark Thompson hopes is never repeated.

Mark Thompson, environmental affairs manager for Montana Resources, standing above the Berkeley Pit.
Corin Cates-Carney

When 10,000 snow geese stopped to rest in Butte, in late November, the birds didn’t know they were landing in a toxic pit filled with acidic wastewater.

Hawk calls, intended to to scare away other birds, blare from speakers surrounding the pit.

The Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana, where thousands of migrating geese died this week.
Mike Albans

Last week, migrating snow geese made an ill-fated decision to take a break at the toxic Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana. The numbers of dead birds are now predicted to be in the thousands. Nora Saks talks to David McCumber, the editor of the Montana Standard to find out the details surrounding the mass die-off.

Berkeley Pit in Butte, MT
Flickr user Christopher (CC-BY-2.0)

The Montana Standard is suing to make Superfund negotiations in Butte public after they've been veiled in secrecy for 14 years. Nora Saks speaks with David McCumber, the editor of the newspaper, to find out more about their lawsuit and why the state pulled out of the clean-up settlement last week.

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