Nora Saks

Nora Saks is a freelance radio and print journalist investigating themes of environmental justice in the Crown of the Continent and beyond.

She's currently a graduate student in the University of Montana's Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism Masters Program.

Having lived both north and south of the 49th parallel, she's inclined to use the term "bioregion" a little too frequently when describing her interest in exploring boundaries based on ecology rather than politics.

If you’ve ever driven through Southwest Montana on I-90, you’ve probably noticed the lone smoke stack standing sentinel near Anaconda. That’s the iconic Anaconda Smelter Stack - one of the tallest free-standing masonry structures in the world.

For over a century, the smelter processed copper ore from Butte, and the stack belched thick smoke out over the valley. The public has been forbidden from visiting it for nearly four decades. But this year, for it’s 100th anniversary, tours of the stack are being offered. I hopped on one Thursday.

Under the Superfund cleanup deal currently being negotiated for Butte, most of the historic mine waste lining the Upper Silver Bow and Blacktail Creek corridors that carve through town is slated to be removed and cleaned up.

But what these big parcels of land and water will look like, feel like, and are used for after the cleanup is over - is much more open-ended.

This week, locals in Butte will have a chance to help shape the designs for what the major creek corridors in town will look like after the Superfund cleanup is over.

Last summer, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt established a Superfund Task Force, and named Butte and Anaconda as top priorities for completion of Superfund cleanups.

When Pruitt resigned last month, many in Montana wondered what that would mean here.

On the first anniversary of the Superfund Task Force, I sat down in Butte with Doug Benevento, the top administrator for EPA Region 8, to talk about what changes at the top mean for Montana.

Last night Anaconda residents got their first chance to hear about the conceptual Superfund cleanup agreement reached over the weekend with the Environmental Protection Agency, but few details were shared.

Over the weekend, the parties involved in Anaconda’s Superfund cleanup reached an “agreement in principle,” meeting the deadline set by the Environmental Protection Agency just in the nick of time. In April, an EPA regional administrator set a new deadline for a cleanup agreement of July 31.

That strategy worked. On Saturday night, the parties successfully reached a conceptual cleanup agreement for the Anaconda Smelter Superfund site.

The clock is ticking down for parties to reach a final cleanup agreement for Anaconda’s Superfund site. 

The Environmental Protection Agency is about to launch its second study of public health concerns related to Butte’s Superfund sites. But When locals found out the scope of the plan at a public meeting Tuesday, some were disappointed.

A new Superfund health study is getting underway in Butte, and this week there’s a chance for the public to learn more about it and weigh in.

Final cleanup and construction on Butte’s smallest Superfund site, the Montana Pole and Treating Plant, continues to be pushed back.

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