Proposed Training Would Help Local Experts Better Explain the Berkeley Pit

The Butte-Silver Bow Superfund Division hopes to spend just under $3500 for a training from a Maryland-based company.

“Thank you for calling Water Words That Work, LLC. Let us help you make a splash with your communications!”

Founder and owner Eric Eckl would host a one-day training to assist technical experts working with the Berkeley Pit to make their message more digestible for laypeople and local residents.

[Eric 1]

“The basic focus of the effort is to help scientists and engineers and other technical experts communicate more effectively with the surrounding community. And we will run through a series of exercises to help people who have a really deep expertise in certain kinds of environmental and resource management explain that clearly to those who do not have an in-depth background.”

Eckl says his company, Water Words That Work, LLC, provides this training to different groups around the country.

[Eric 2]

“Superfund sites are just one facet of the clientele that we serve. What all of our clients have in common is that there is some kind of a water angle on their problem, and it’s scientists, engineers and technical experts who are in the lead.”

This is not the first effort to present the technical and environmental challenges of the Berkeley Pit to the public. For decades, an organization called PitWatch has presented technical information about the Berkeley Pit to the general public. Butte-Silver Bow’s Superfund Data Administrator Julia Crain:

[Julia 1]

“The Pitwatch Education Committee was established probably over 20 years ago as a method to better inform the public about things that were occurring related to the Berkeley Pit and to address questions that the community may have had or has about certain information related to the Berkeley Pit.”

Crain says this training will assist them with their plan to update PitWatch and improve communication between the community and technical experts.

[Julia 2]

“This is more an effort on behalf of the Pitwatch Education Committee to do a better job of providing basic education about the Berkeley Pit, what the remedy is in place for the Pit, and how it operates. We have an established website that, when you look at it in this day and age, is very dated. And if you are a person wondering what the Berkeley Pit is, how the Berkeley Pit operates, why it looks the way it does, there isn’t a lot of educational information that provides direct context that a reader could then delve into those pieces and understand a bit more.”

Misconceptions about the Berkeley Pit abound, so I asked Julia Crain to answer one question that continually comes up in Superfund conversations:

[Julia 3]

“Is the Pit ever going to overflow?”

“Uh, no. There are several mechanism in place to prevent that,. Mainly, there are compliance monitoring points that have a higher elevation due to hyperbaric pressure. When they talk about overflow though, I think there’s a perception that it’s like a swimming pool, where if you keep getting the water level higher and higher and higher it’s going to tip over the edge. That is not something that is scientifically possible. Instead, the groundwater, which is what is in the Berkeley Pit, would migrate through the aquifers, towards the stream.”

Water Words That Work founder Eric Eckl will fly out from the East Coast in February to deliver his training to local technical experts, in the hopes that the PitWatch Committee will be better able to share their knowledge of the Pit with laypeople. Eckl says the gist of the training is:

[Eric 3]

“Simplify, better pictures, shorter.”

The Council of Commissioners will vote Wednesday whether or not to contract with Water Words That Works to have them come to Butte.

For KBMF, I’m Clark Grant.