There are Superfund Sites. Then there are SUPERFUND SITES! The Berkeley Pit in Butte, MT is the latter. A former open pit copper mine, it is now a 900 foot deep collection pool of eerily gorgeous water. That water is contaminated with heavy metals, copper, cadmium, cobalt, iron, manganese, zinc, arsenic, and has a pH of 2.5 (acidic). And it’s open for tours. How about that? You can take a tour of a Superfund Site.
The most interesting part of this site is that since it closed on Earth Day 1982, the pit is slowly collecting more water. That is a problem. There is a critical level, 5,410 feet above sea level, when the water will be near the natural water table. At that time they will begin pumping the water out of the pit. If they don’t, the toxic, corrosive water will outflow back into the groundwater and surrounding surface water. As of Oct 1, 2014, the water level has grown 6.17 feet in 2014 to 5,319.78 feet. It is estimated that the water will reach the critical level in 2023. That’s not that far.
I would recommend stopping to see the pit if you’re cruising past Butte on I-15 or I-90. If you can’t make it, below is a photo tour of what you’ll find there. Check out PitWatch.org for more about the history of the mine and monitoring the water levels.