BUTTE — The $19 million polishing plant designed to help take contaminants out of the toxic Berkeley Pit water and discharge the clean water into Silver Bow Creek is ready to be put to the test.
The facility has a big task.
“The first objective is, we want to verify that we can maintain the water level in the Berkeley Pit. The second is, there’s a lot of water stored on site between the Berkeley Pit and the lake behind the Yankee Doodle Tailings impoundment, and we want to make sure we can get some of that water off site. And third is, we’re testing these different filtration methods to ensure that we can safely treat, discharge the water to the creek,” said Operations Manager Ron Halsey.
Atlantic-Richfield Co. started building the polishing plant 10 months ago off Shields Avenue as part of an overall plan to stop the rising water in the Berkeley Pit before it reaches the critical water level. The current water level is just under 60 from the critical level.
“At the current filling rate we anticipate it’s about four years from now when we get to that level and we’d have a have a final remedy in place to treat that water, but we’re a good four years ahead of that right now so we want to have the time test the technology to make sure it works and can safely discharge water to the creek,” said Halsey.
After all the water’s been treated in the plant, they’ll store it in a final tank called the product tank. From there, they’ll test it one more time to make sure the water meets the environmental standards before discharging it into the creek. At full capacity, the plant can treat up to 10 million gallons of water a day.
“So this water when it leaves the facility will meet the CD discharge requirements that are safe for aquatic life, recreation and wildlife,” said Halsey.
Once approved by the EPA the plant could be discharging water by September.