MTPR

The Berkeley Pit

Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Doug Benevento, at right of screen, spoke in Butte in January, 2018
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

The regional head of the Environmental Protection Agency says Butte could move off the federal Superfund list by 2024, but details of that plan aren’t expected to be made public until this summer.

Administrator Doug Benevento announced steps toward a legal settlement for the cleanup of toxic mining waste in town before a crowd of more than 60 people in the Butte Friday.

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
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.

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