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article imageThousands of geese die after landing in toxic waters of pit mine

By Karen Graham     Dec 7, 2016 in Environment
Butte - Thousands of late-migrating snow geese caught in a snow storm that froze their usual landing sites are dead after hazing measures failed to keep them from landing in a toxic lake called the Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana.
The Berkeley Pit, managed by Montana Resources and Atlantic Richfield (ARCO), is a former open-pit copper mine in Butte. It is one of the only places in the world where the public can view toxic waste, all for the admission price of two bucks.
The Berkeley Pit is about one-mile long by a half-mile wide. The pit is at a depth of 1,780 feet (540 meters) and is filled to a depth of 900 feet (270 meters) with water that is a toxic mix of heavy metals and dangerous chemicals that leach from the rock, including copper, arsenic, cadmium, zinc, and sulfuric acid.
The Berkeley Pit  Butte  Montana.
The Berkeley Pit, Butte, Montana.
On the night of November 28, a severe snowstorm forced as many as 25,000 snow geese to land on the toxic waters of the lake, according to Officials. An off-duty Montana Resources employee 25-miles away gave workers advance notice the flock was headed their way, reports
Freezeout Lake west of Great Falls, as well as Warm Springs Ponds, south of Deer Lodge, are some of the usual layover sites for the migrating geese but the sites were frozen.
The Associated Press reported that Mark Thompson, environmental affairs manager for mining company Montana Resources, said, "I can’t underscore enough how many birds were in the Butte area that night. Numbers beyond anything we’ve ever experienced in our 21 years of monitoring by several orders of magnitude." He added that it looked like “seven hundred acres of white birds” had landed.
Montana Resources and ARCO employees, using spotlights, noise makers, and other means, tried valiantly to scare off the birds. By the next day, they had managed to chase off about 90 percent of the geese. Thompson said the employees “did incredible things to save a lot of birds and they really put their heart and soul behind it... they did everything they could think of.”
Sierra Club
Officials say the count of the dead geese is still going on and once the numbers are tallied, the Environmental Protection Agency will determine if MR and ARCO did enough to ward off the flock with their bird hazing program or if they were negligent, according to the Billings Gazette.
The bird hazing program, designed by state and federal agencies, was started in 1995 after 342 snow geese died in the open pit's waters. Thompson, however, says he feels like the hazing measures were adequate.
More about late migration, Snowstorm, Berkeley Pit, Butte Montana, perfect storm
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