Albion Monitor /Commentary

A Monument to Monstrous Pollution

by Jim Hightower

The despoiled spectacle of what is considered one of the worst industrial crimes ever committed against nature
It is said that American tourists will travel anywhere at anytime to look at anything.

I know this to be true, because in my town of Austin, Texas, one of the top tourist attractions is a colony of bats living under the Congress Avenue Bridge. I kid you not.

But even this is not as weird as a tourist attraction that some of the good folks in Butte, Montana, hope to promote: Pollution.

You see, Butte is the town that Anaconda Copper Company ate, literally devouring the hillsides, gouging out enormous pits and fouling the water so badly with arsenic, manganese, lead, zinc and, of course, copper that the whole place is now America's biggest superfund clean-up site -- described by the New York Times as "nearly an entire county full of poisons and heavy metal."

So, ask some of the never-say-die leaders of this toxic town, wouldn't all this make a splendid National Historic Park?! They reason that visitors traveling between nearby Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks will just naturally want to detour off the interstate a bit to take-in the despoiled spectacle of what is considered one of the worst industrial crimes ever committed against nature.

Among the sights is the Berkeley Pit -- an old open-pit copper mine three football fields deep that is now filled to overflowing with 26 billion gallons of water so corrosive that when a flock of 300 snow geese landed there a couple of years ago, the acidic water ate through their stomachs and killed them. In some tourist spots, the water might upset your tummy. Here, the water could eat your tummy!

Still, the hardy folks of Butte hope that the National Park Service will designate -- and fund -- their polluted pits, slag heaps and waste dumps as a historic site.

My guess is the tourists will come. And why not? Maybe we can learn more from our historic blunders than from our majestic monuments.

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor October 13, 1997 (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to reproduce.

Front Page