Day #8 - Stuck in Butte, MT

June 19, 2015

Butte..... have you ever been there? Not the nicest place to get stuck, but heck, you can check out one of the U.S.'s biggest superfund sites. The deepest, ugliest pit of (environmental) despair you will ever gaze upon. I haven't seen it in 20 years but I imagine it is still there.... waiting for us to figure out how to clean up our biggest mining messes. If you'd like to learn more about the Berkeley Pit, keep reading at the end of this message.

Today, John woke in the woods somewhere en route between Basin and Butte, after a solid night's sleep (rode 50 miles yesterday after losing time in Helena). He pedaled 30 miles to Butte using mostly one leg since the left one is super painful. He's not sure he can continue.

We talked a bunch today. I recommended he take a rest day (after all the time it took to shop for new pedals and shoes, the day was wasting away).... spend the rest of the day in a hotel in Butte, icing his knees, stretching, sleeping and eating. I have read that even some of the elite guys take a day of rest to ice knees, if need be. He has switched to flat pedals and trail running shoes and purchased stronger sunglasses. He is staying at the hotel/bike shop owned by Levi Leipheimer's family (Levi, the champion/pro cyclist).

Levi's hotel

Icing & ice cream..... It oughta do the trick!

Even though he is discouraged, he still has
 his sense of humor. His Instagram post said
"Permanent helmet hair."

Please send John your well wishes!

* (Source: Wikipedia) The Berkeley Pit is a former open pit copper mine located in Butte, Montana, United States. It is one mile long by half a mile wide with an approximate depth of 1,780 feet (540 m). It is filled to a depth of about 900 feet (270 m) with water that is heavily acidic (2.5 pH level), about the acidity of cola or lemon juice.[1] As a result, the pit is laden withheavy metals and dangerous chemicals that leach from the rock, including copper, arsenic, cadmium, zinc, andsulfuric acid.[1]
The mine was opened in 1955 and operated by Anaconda Copper and later by the Atlantic Richfield Company(ARCO), until its closure in 1982. When the pit was closed, the water pumps in the nearby Kelly shaft, at a depth of 3,800 feet, were turned off, and groundwater from the surrounding aquifers began to slowly fill the pit, rising at about the rate of one foot a month.[1] Since the pit closure on Earth Day 1982, the level has risen to within 150 feet of the natural groundwater level.
The pit and its water present a serious environmental problem because the water, with dissolved oxygen, allowspyrite and sulfide minerals in the ore and wall rocks to decay, releasing acid. When the pit water level eventually reaches the natural water table, estimated to occur by around 2020, the pit water will reverse flow back into surrounding groundwater, polluting into Silver Bow Creek which is the headwaters of Clark Fork River.[1] The acidic water in the pit carries a heavy load of dissolved heavy metals. In fact, the water contains so much dissolved metal (up to 187 ppm Cu) that some material is mined directly from the water.
In the 1990s plans were devised for solving the groundwater problem. Water flowing into the pit has been diverted to slow the rise of the water level. Plans have been made for more extensive treatment in the future. The Berkeley Pit has since become one of the largest Superfund sites.
The pit is currently a tourist attraction, with an adjacent gift shop. A $2 admission fee is charged to go out on the viewing platform.

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