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A Beautiful Bit of Honesty: Butte’s Berkeley Pit

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Berkeley Pit 1

The Berkeley Pit is an open pit mine on the edge of Butte that had gobbled up neighborhood after neighborhood for years. In 1982 the mine ceased operation and began filling with water. But not just filling with clean swimming pool water. The water in the pit is highly acidic and so full of minerals that today it (yes, the water itself) is “mined” for copper. It may be a myth that migrating birds die instantly if they land in the water, but vigorous hazing activities include a houseboat that moves around the lake to get birds off the water and to collect those appearing to suffer ill effects (they dump the birds in an on-board five-gallon barrel of fresh water and release them from fresh-water).

Berkeley Pit 2

Enjoy the view.

Standing on the viewing platform, the scale of the pit is amazing. And the chamber of commerce runs a brave Orwellian soundtrack complete with patriotic, upbeat music that describes all that is going on to clean up the mess and how nobody needs to worry about the toxins seeping into the ground water for a variety of reasons. So just enjoy the view. [Addendum: The level of the water in the pit is carefully monitored so the toxic mess does not seep into the groundwater. The number of people and groups watching the pit is quite amazing. ]

The beautiful bit of honesty came from a resident I spoke with. What was her impression of the Berkeley pit and what did other residents think of it?

“We know we live next to a lake of battery acid.”

No spin. No soundtrack or patriotic music. Just winsome honesty. And let’s get on with life.

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Written by kirkistan

August 24, 2013 at 5:00 am

Posted in curiosities

Tagged with , , ,

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