Why 35,000 People Visit a Toxic Pit in Montana Every Year (Video)
Tourists are flocking to a giant toxic pit in Montana.
Approximately 35,000 people go to Berkeley Pit every year. It’s not the most glamorous attraction in Butte, Montana, but it’s one of the only places in the world where you can pay to see toxic waste.
Admission is $2 per person to see “51 billion gallons of arsenic, lead, and cadmium-laced liquid,” Justin Nobel wrote on Topic.
Since it opened in 1955, the Berkeley Pit has been attracting visitors. Although it wasn’t always a toxic destination. The pit started as an “open pit” copper mine. In the 1960s, there was a viewing deck where visitors could peer over the pit and watch men at work extracting metal. But in 1982, the company in charge of the site shut off their pumps and the pit began filling with toxic water.
But the toxicity didn’t stop the visitors. It just attracted some new ones. The “lake” is tinged a sickly green from iron deposits that never dissolve; they just linger in the water. It measures more than a mile long and a half-mile wide. The pit is currently a 1,085-foot-deep deposit of toxic water, and it’s rising about seven feet each year. By 2023, the water is expected to overflow, break its bedrock, and seep into Butte, Montana, contaminating the drinking water.
To put the lake’s effect in perspective: in the ‘90s, a flock of geese decided to roost by the lake. Within a few days, their insides had been charred to oblivion and more than 340 birds were found dead.
Today the Berkeley Pit has become a symbol of dark tourism. People stop to take pictures and take in the effects of humans on the environment.