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Join public rally for Silver Bow Creek
Pat Munday

You are invited to Rally 'Round the Creek — a public event for the entire Butte community about the health of Silver Bow Creek. There will be family fun, informational presentations and plenty of opportunity to talk with your neighbors about this important issue. The rally is at the Butte Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, 1000 George St., from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7.

Rust never sleeps: that is an important lesson that citizens who care about the environment have learned about Superfund cleanup and restoration.

The state of Montana, which has the lead role on the Silver Bow Creek Superfund site, has done a fantastic job of cleaning up and restoring the corridor. Just a few years ago, it was a lifeless and blighted place — toxic to fish, plants and people. Today, the area downstream of Butte is an inviting place. The Greenway public trail will officially open soon. A few trout have been showing up in the creek, too, and rumors are that some intrepid angler caught a trophy.

We cannot, however, take the restored Silver Bow Creek for granted. The $3 million-per-mile project is threatened by contaminated run-off from the Butte Hill. Although the Record of Decision for the "Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit" remedy was signed more than two years ago, it is stalled in the so-called Consent Decree process. In the Consent Decree, the parties — Arco-BP, EPA, and Montana — must come to an agreement about how the remedy will be implemented. The Record of Decision was vague and could allow a whole series of trial-and-error strategies that might take 20 years to stop polluting Silver Bow Creek.

There are some simple solutions that are likely to be effective, such as capturing polluted runoff in a settling and treatment basin. Perhaps such simple solutions should be tried sooner rather than later if that is what it takes to protect the creek. Remember, we have spent $63 million thus far on cleaning up the creek and its floodplain. Let's protect that investment.

Silver Bow Creek's recovery has begun, as evidenced by trout and other fishes found in recent surveys. We know that one day our stream can be returned to a self-sustaining wild trout fishery and a wonderful place for Butte families and visitors to recreate.

But environmental restoration does not just happen. Unless the remedies for Butte and the creek that runs through it are coordinated, things could get worse. Agencies such as Montana's Department of Environmental Quality want to do the right thing, but it's always easier for government to do the right thing when people actively support that choice.

It's your creek. Wade in, and help make a difference.

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Come to the rally and learn more about Silver Bow Creek, the remedy for the Butte Hill, and ways in which you can make a difference.

The event is sponsored by CTEC (the EPA-funded citizens' technical assistance group for Butte), the Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee, the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program and the Butte Silver Bow Arts Foundation.

— Pat Munday of 723 W. Daly St. in Walkerville is a professor of Science & Technology Studies with Montana Tech in Butte. His blog can be found online at http://ecorover.blogspot.com.

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