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Warm Springs Ponds Wildlife Management Area

At the turn of the 20th century, waste from the Butte mines was dumped into Silver Bow Creek and carried downstream into the Clark Fork River. In the 1910s, tailings ponds were built on Silver Bow Creek near Warm Springs to allow sediments and metals to settle to the bottom of the ponds. The ponds were enlarged substantially in the 1950s. Beginning in 1967, lime was added to the ponds to increase the system's ability to precipitate out metals. The pond system now contains an estimated 19 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments. The Warm Springs Ponds consist of the active area (Ponds 2 and 3) which is currently treating water and the inactive area (Pond 1 and the area below Pond 1) which is no longer used for treatment.

The Mill-Willow Bypass adjacent to the pond system was used to pass relatively clean water or flood water around the ponds. Tailings along the bypass channel were a major source of contamination which caused fish kills in the upper Clark Fork River. Under an administrative order on consent between EPA and ARCO in 1990, the bypass was cleaned up and the channel reconstructed to enhance the fishery.

All of the cleanup construction work for the Warm Springs Ponds has been completed. On-going treatment of incoming water will be necessary until Silver Bow Creek is cleaned up. Ecological and water quality monitoring is also continuing. 

 Montana Department of Environmental Quality DEQ

Click HERE to see some Panoramic Prints of the Warm Springs Ponds which are available for sale


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All images ęDavid Williams unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved.