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Butte’s pit water could soon be pumped into Silver Bow Creek after treatment

Posted at 1:13 PM, Mar 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-06 15:13:45-05

BUTTE – The toxic water that’s steadily rising in Butte’s Berkeley Pit will be pumped out and cleaned by the end of the month.

“For the first time in 30 years, the pit won’t be rising, the water level in the pit won’t be rising,” said Mark Thompson of Montana Resources.

Montana Resources and Atlantic-Richfield Co. have nearly completed its polishing plant off on Continental Drive, which is the final step in treating water taken from the pit. That water can be then discharged into Silver Bow Creek.

This will stop the pit water from rising to the critical water level, which is within 60 feet at this time. The project had to be completed by 2023, but the plant has an early start.

“We’ll have the ability to drop it if we want to or let it rise if we want to, whatever makes sense based on this pilot plan on where it’s best to hold the Berkeley Pit,” said Thompson.

Much of the pit water will be treated at the Horseshoe Bend plant and used at the mine. The rest will continue to the new polishing plant.

“But it takes a little extra filtration before it can be discharged to Silver Bow Creek,” said Thompson.

After the Berkeley Pit water goes through its final treatment at the polishing plant, they’ll send that water right down the waterline, head west and then discharge it in Silver Bow Creek where it converges with Blacktail Creek. And this plant can release a lot of water.

“Well, we’re hoping to get started hopefully at the end of this month discharging up to about three million gallons a day and as the polishing facility gets fully built out, it will have a capacity of 10 million gallons a day,” said Thompson.

-Reported by John Emeigh/MTN News