Thousands of snow geese were burned and poisoned to death when they landed in a Montana mine tailings lake filled with acid and toxic metals.
The 700-acre Berkeley Pit is a massive crevice left behind from nearly 30 years of copper mining. It filled up with water 900 feet deep, which then accumulated toxic levels of inorganic compounds including arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, copper, iron and zinc. The water is as acidic as distilled vinegar, strong enough to liquefy the steel propeller of a motorboat.
The pit is a Superfund site and also a tourist attraction, where people pay $2 to see the toxic, reddish water. It has also become renowned as a location to study extremophiles, microorganisms that can persist in conditions toxic to most life.
Flock of unprecedented size
The Pit is maintained by mining companies Montana Resources and Atlantic Richfield, which since 1995 have been responsible for preventing birds from landing in the toxic lake. In late November, an off-duty Montana Resources employee called to notify Berkeley Pit staff that a flock of about 25,000 snow geese was in the air about 25 miles away. Continue reading »