Should Residents of Butte, Montana Be Concerned About Water Pollution?

Snowy Mountains

Recent reports of over 3,000 geese that died from exposure to toxic chemicals in a contaminated storage pond near Butte, Montana has raised concern for the safety of residents and surrounding areas in Western Montana. Although no human casualties have been reported as a result of the contaminated water, officials warn that measures must be taken to protect the region’s residents before the poisonous mix seeps into the Butte, Montana water supply. Residents should familiarize themselves with the situation and the protections that are available to compensate them for environmental damage in Butte, Montana.

The toxic water is a result of mining operations which have been operating in the area for over a century. The extraction of gold, silver, lead, zinc, manganese, and copper previously earned the community the nickname, “The Richest Hill on Earth.” Although, the wealth generated from this mining has come at a tremendous cost that could potentially affect Butte and much of Western Montana.

What you need to know: 

When mining by The Anaconda Copper Co. concluded in the region in 1982, old mine shafts and tunnels began to flood with contaminated water collecting in the Berkeley Pit. Officials estimate the pit, which is located nearby uptown Butte, will reach a critical level by 2023, giving them only a short time to prevent the water level from rising high enough to contaminate Butte’s nearby Silver Bow Creek and the city’s groundwater.

That's not all...

After an agreement was reached between the Environmental Protection Agency and the mines’ owner, the Horseshoe Bend water treatment plant was constructed near the pit in 2000. The plant currently processes over 4 million gallons of water a day and prevents it from flowing into the pit. An expansion is planned which aims to treat an additional 3 million gallons of water from the Berkeley Pit each day.

What this means mean for you? 

Although officials are confident the water treatment plant is an adequate solution to health concerns, residents should familiarize themselves with the legal recourse they may have if they are damaged by the pollution.

Health & Safety Concerns for Residents of Butte, Montana

A case called Northern Cheyenne Tribe v. Montana Department of Environmental Quality involved a legal challenge against a resource-extraction company’s contamination of the water supply relied upon by tribal members, farmers, and ranchers in Eastern Montana. The resolution of this case led to the establishment of pre-discharge standards, meaning companies discharging water used by resource extraction are now required to test and record the level of contaminants in the water before beginning their extraction operations. Comparing post-discharge water tests with pre-discharge tests allows for a more accurate determination of contamination than measuring post-discharge water tests against established water standards.

Groundwater is the source of drinking water for 50% of the population in the United States and is one of the most common sources of water for irrigation in agriculture. Although groundwater is of critical importance to communities like Butte, it is vulnerable to pollution from mining operations.

Residents of Butte, Montana should be concerned about the groundwater contamination from copper mining due to the potentially adverse impact it could have on the health and property of those individuals who live near the mine.

How to Take Action & Seek Damages for Health Problems Resulting from Pollution

The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act sets limits as to how much contamination can be present in drinking water. These safety standards are maintained and implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure public health is not affected. The EPA works with various groups including states, tribes, and other partners to maintain the quality of drinking water.

If these regulations are violated or if a person’s access to safe, clean drinking water is affected, the injured party may be entitled to assert an environmental injury claim against the entity responsible for causing the damage.

If you or a loved one has been adversely affected by pollution or contaminated water, it is important to retain an experienced environmental injury lawyer who is prepared to go to trial and hold corporations accountable. Our personal injury law firm serves Butte, Montana and other cities in the state, and exclusively represents individuals and families who have suffered a catastrophic personal injury.

Why contact Hoyt & Blewett?

Hoyt & Blewett is a nationally recognized law firm who has an established track record of holding polluters and other tortfeasors accountable for their negligence. If someone has polluted your property or caused personal injuries through contamination, you should get started today by calling for a free claim evaluation. Don’t let fair compensation for your family’s tragic environmental injury slip away.

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