Brimming toxic pit nears critical level after bird deaths
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Residents of the Montana mining city of Butte say the deaths of more than 3,000 snow geese should be a wake-up call for the future of a former open pit mine that is filled with 50 billion gallons of acidic, metal-laden water.
The birds died last fall in the toxic stew that is part of the nation’s largest Superfund site.
The Berkeley Pit is expected to reach a critical water level in 2023. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials are finalizing a plan to prevent contaminated water from escaping into other waterways or Butte’s groundwater system.
Community activists say the plan to divert pit water into a treatment plant is risky and isn’t a long-term solution.
EPA officials say the treatment plant will be tested and any necessary changes will be made before the critical level is reached.
High-speed chase near Helena ends in crash, arrests
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say they have arrested two people following a high-speed chase that began north of Helena and ended when a vehicle crashed.
The Independent Record reports that deputies began chasing two vehicles Saturday night, with speeds reaching up to 130 mph.
Lewis and Clark County Undersheriff Jason Grimmis says the two suspects were arrested after their Honda Accord spun and crashed.
The driver was a minor and the other occupant was a Great Falls man suspected in a break-in three weeks ago.
Both suspects are expected to appear in court Monday.
The occupants of a red Subaru that was also involved in the chase have not been located. The vehicle, which is believed to have been stolen, was found abandoned in Cascade County.
Montana US attorney designates civil rights prosecutor
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. attorney for Montana has designated a prosecutor to focus on civil rights, part of a nationwide push by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Lee Newspapers of Montana reported Sunday the job will be handled Brendan McCarthy, an assistant U.S. attorney for the past four years.
U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter declined to speculate on what affect President Donald Trump’s election will have on the office.
Trump has nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, to be attorney general. Some groups have questioned Sessions’ commitment to civil rights. He has said he will defend freedom and equality.
Cotter says hate crimes and hate rhetoric have been increasing. The FBI reported 30 hate crimes in Montana in 2014 and 45 in 2015.
Most involved race but the fastest-growing category was religion.
Women’s march draws thousands to Helena
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Despite below-freezing temperatures, thousands of people attended a march and rally in Helena in answer to President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Organizers estimated about 10,000 attended the event Saturday. Many were dressed snuggly with ski and stocking hats and winter coats against the cold.
The event included songs and speeches, including one by first lady Lisa Bullock.
There were many signs, including one that read “A woman’s place is in the House and Senate.”
It was among other similar marches and rallies around Montana and throughout the country.
Trump was sworn in Friday.
Arntzen says test-score report ‘falsified’
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen says some Montana student test data submitted to the U.S. Education Department before she took office were “falsified” and out of compliance.
Arntzen says the data didn’t meet state and federal reporting standards and misrepresented student proficiency.
However, her predecessor, Denise Juneau, told Lee Newspapers of Montana that Arntzen was misconstruing the issue and “jumping to conclusions.”
Juneau, who was superintendent for eight years before Arntzen took office this month, says she was never contacted and could have clarified the situation to Arntzen.
Arntzen says the issue could put federal funding for our Montana schools at risk although she said no federal officials had raised the specter of lost funding.
Juneau says she doubted federal officials would pull funding for the state.
Montana asbestos victims to get $25 million from state
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — The state of Montana has reached a $25 million settlement with more than 1,000 victims of asbestos-related disease over claims that health officials failed to bring attention to the hazards of a contaminated mine.
The Flathead Beacon reported Thursday that the settlement stems from nearly 100 lawsuits brought against the state for failing to protect residents in the northwestern Montana town of Libby.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands sickened by asbestos exposure from Libby’s now-shuttered W.R. Grace and Co. vermiculite mine.
The Montana Supreme Court overturned lower court rulings in 2004, ruling that the state should’ve warned miners of the dangers first identified by officials in the 1950s.
Wednesday’s settlement marks the end of lengthy negotiations between victims and the state.