Thou­sands of geese die af­ter land­ing in toxic mine wa­ter

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Los An­ge­les

Thou­sands of mi­grat­ing geese have died af­ter tak­ing refuge from a snow­storm in toxic mine wa­ters in the western United States, mine of­fi­cials have said.

As many as 10,000 snow geese de­scended on the aban­doned open Berke­ley Pit in Butte, Montana on Nov 28 and since then sev­eral thou­sand have per­ished, said Mark Thomp­son, en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs man­ager for Montana Re­sources, which jointly man­ages the pit with the At­lantic Rich­field Com­pany.

Thomp­son said that mine work­ers tried to pre­vent the huge flock from land­ing on the wa­ter — which con­tains sul­fu­ric acid and heavy met­als — by us­ing noise mak­ers, spot­lights and other meth­ods but failed to scare them all off.

He de­scribed the pit’s 280hectare lake as “white with birds” when the flock landed on the wa­ter.

Since then, area res­i­dents have found dead birds in park­ing lots, in front of a casino, on the road­side and out­side town. Thou­sands more are es­ti­mated to have died in the lake, of­fi­cials said.

“Try­ing to get some idea of mor­tal­ity has been dif­fi­cult,” Joe Vranka of the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, told the Billings Gazette.

Mean­while, the com­pany and the EPA are keep­ing a watch to pre­vent any more flocks headed to­ward Butte from land­ing in the wa­ter.

This is not the first time geese have died at the pit, which ceased op­er­at­ing in 1982 and has since been sub­merged with toxic wa­ter.

In 1995, 342 dead geese were found float­ing in the pit.

EPA of­fi­cials said the com­pa­nies that man­age the mine will be fined if found not in com­pli­ance with a “bird haz­ing” pro­gram de­signed to pre­vent an­i­mals from spend­ing too much time in the wa­ter.

snow geese de­scended on the aban­doned open pit in Montana late last month, en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cials said.

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