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River Re-Do in Opportunity

January 30, 2012

Just got back from another reporting trip to Anaconda, Montana, and took some fresh pics of remediation work in the Opportunity area on the way. Above is Silver Bow Creek, the main tributary of the Clark Fork, post-recent remediation work of the last few weeks. This is the spot where I started my canoe trip last year, looking upstream from the Montana Scenic Highway 1 bridge. What you’re seeing is a pretty extensive section of floodplain that’s been scraped of contaminated surface soils, recontoured with donor and amended soils, and a streambed that’s been reshaped with mat (the light brown at water’s edge) and reinforced around the bridge with stone rubble. This will all presumably be planted come spring, and in a couple of years, with a little luck, the unsuspecting eye might not be able to tell the creek was ever anything but natural.

Just for reference, here the same view last month:

Below is a shot looking back toward Interstate 90, across remaining slicken areas (note the dead willows and sickly soil), at some of the earthmoving equipment that’s doing the work.

Here’s a view of what a small section of soil-scraped landscape looks like. The contaminated soils are scraped to depth, piled up, and then loaded into trucks for transit to the nearby Opportunity Ponds, aka BP/ARCO Waste Repository. The soil is replaced and replanted.

Here’s another view of stacked soils awaiting transport to the Opportunity Ponds site, on the other side of Opportunity, shown here in the middle ground.

And finally this. This is Silver Bow Creek, looking upstream from the Stewart Street crossing in Opportunity. The other end of the pipe is sucking water out of a wetland area, presumably to dry it out in preparation for soil removal. In other words, the water is coming straight out of a network of metals-contaminated puddles and pumping directly into Silver Bow, which feeds into the Warm Springs Ponds.  Who knows what it’s carrying with it, but wetland remediation is an imprecise science, and rebuilding river is messy business — some amount of bad stuff inevitably ends up downstream.


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