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Toxic Montana Lake's Extremophiles Might Be a Medical Treasure Trove

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the toxic-waste-pit-is-half-full dept.

Medicine 133

EagleHasLanded writes "The Berkeley Pit, an abandoned open pit copper mine in Butte, Montana — part of the largest Superfund site in the U.S. — is filled with 40 billion gallons of acidic, metal-contaminated water. For years the water was believed to be too toxic to support life, until Andrea and Donald Stierle, a pair of organic chemists at the University of Montana, discovered that the Pit is a rich source of unusual extremophiles, 'many of which have shown great promise as producers of potential anti-cancer agents and anti-inflammatories.' In the course of their ongoing investigation, the two self-described 'bioprospectors' have also discovered an uncommon yeast, which might play a significant role in cleaning up the site. In the meantime, the Pit has become a tourist attraction in Butte, which charges $2 for the opportunity to take in the view from the Viewing Stand."

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133 comments

Two dolla (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38256824)

One does not simply pay $2 to get into Mordor.

Re:Two dolla (2)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257142)

If you don't want to pay $2, then just visit the /. "tourist attraction." timothy strikes again.

Berkeley Pit? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38256838)

Is that where the demon arose?

Nature is very very versataile (5, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256850)

Nature is extremely versatile and life has and will always find a way. Change the environment enough and most of what's out there will die except for a few things that survive, learn to adapt an ultimately thrive. Mass extinction simply means new opportunities for new creatures and the geological record shows this time and time again.

This has been the case from the small mammals that replaced the dinosaurs to the those that learned to thrive in the oxygen that was poisonous to the life that lived before that.

Man is very arrogant, to think that we should be the judge and jury of every species on the planet. We need to remember that we only one of countless other species of this planet and to be good neighbors.

Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place.

It's as if these people didn't realize that change is the only thing consistent about our planets biological history. From snowball earth to tropics in the arctic our world has never had a 'normal'. We need to learn to balance ourselves against our planets inevitable future of change.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (5, Interesting)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256902)

I agree with your basic viewpoint, but consider the benefits of at least getting a decent chance to study a wide variety of organisms before they go extinct. Shouldn't we try to preserve as much as possible until we have the resources to understand them fully? From a purely economic POV, more valuable compounds like those found from these extremophiles 'many of which have shown great promise as producers of potential anti-cancer agents and anti-inflammatories.' surely has to be a consideration? If an organism or species is wiped out before we have a decent chance to study it, don't we lose those sorts of opportunities?

Re:Nature is very very versataile (4, Interesting)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257014)

It's all in the reading. You could take this example to show the opposite: we need to clear out our biosphere of animals, plants, etc., that aren't helping us cure cancer so that new ones can emerge.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257266)

Yes, but my point was that shouldn't we try to study them first to understand if there *is* any benefit prior to extinction. It's a cold point of view, but we'd need to know before these species become extinct. I don't necessarily believe in the views I'm espousing here. I'm treating the OP as an intellectual exercise.

The appropriate /. QOTD at the bottom of the page is "IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988."

Re:Nature is very very versataile (2, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257360)

It's an interesting theory, but how will you know what you don't know? That is, it might be hard to identify, today, what might turn out to be an absolutely vital compound 40 years down the road. Or even one year down the road. And we have to weigh that potential discovery against the potential progress man might make by wiping out some species. Maybe Giraffe tongues cure Ekeeber's syndrome, which turns out to be what tends to kill old people when you take cancer out of the mix. I don't think that should hold us back from wiping out the Giraffes, because, frankly, Giraffes are creepy, and we're better off without them.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38259172)

'frankly, Giraffes are creepy, and we're better off without them.'

Insightful? Really?

Re:Nature is very very versataile (4, Insightful)

Anonymus (2267354) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257432)

If you're fine with waiting at least few hundred thousand years for that kind of diversity to even think about beginning to reappear.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (0)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38258512)

Climate change is inevitable, we will see Darwin's theory of evolution whether we want to or not. By no means do I argue that we should be reckless and allow widespread extinctions of our own making.

I fully support that we should be environmentally responsible and should fight pollution. My point is that we should do these things for their own sake and to get away from the straw man argument that is climate change.

I'm not here to drive a pro pollution political agenda. I'm making my comment because I think a lot of the scientific community has lost it's way and we need to get back to the basics of being environmental stewards for it's own sake.

Devils Advocate (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38259978)

From a purely economic POV, more valuable compounds like those found from these extremophiles 'many of which have shown great promise as producers of potential anti-cancer agents and anti-inflammatories.' surely has to be a consideration?

Here you just buried your case though. Who created the conditions for these things to thrive after all? Was it people like you who would have let the mining site along until we could perfectly "understand" every jackrabbit and pine tree in the area? Or the miners who probably didn't care about that much whatsoever but have created a garden for a wide variety of potentially amazingly useful organisms?

So from a purely economic point of view it is better to let nature take it's course in all ways possible (including whatever mankind will do) and then study the results to see what might be gained from it.

Just saying'...

Re:Nature is very very versataile (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256906)

Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place.

In some ways its even more extreme... I looked it up and there was no mine there until 1955, relatively recently in the evolutionary history of birdies by any timescale. Living in glacial territory, there are no lakes of any sort in my area older than ten thousand years or so.

The numbers are impressive, a good fraction of a cubic mile was scooped up and hauled away in less than a quarter century. Wowzers. I'm sure more rock was moved in my little city over the last 20 years building mcmansions for the housing bubble, but obviously not all in one hole.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38256918)

Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place.

It's as if these people didn't realize that change is the only thing consistent about our planets biological history. From snowball earth to tropics in the arctic our world has never had a 'normal'. We need to learn to balance ourselves against our planets inevitable future of change.

The problem with global warming isn't so much that it will produce change, but that it will produce change caused by and unfavorable to humans.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (-1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256986)

The problem with global warming isn't so much that it will produce change, but that it will produce change caused by and unfavorable to humans.

Because we all know Canadians and Russians ain't human. It's a delusion to claim that such climate change will be bad for everyone.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38257368)

Sorry buddy. I'm Canadian - Northern Canadian. Like, Nunavut. I don't think the warming is a good thing, either. Don't speak for people you don't understand.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (0, Troll)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38258286)

I never pretended to speak for the stupid.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38258842)

I never pretended to speak for the stupid.

Hey, don't sell yourself short. Inasmuch as you're speaking on your own behalf, I'd say you're doing a fine job.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38258322)

I'm also canadian and a little further south. Bring on the warm.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (1)

JonySuede (1908576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38258936)

It will be an unprecedented economic boom for the people of Nunavut. The polar bear might goes extinct if he is to stupid to adapt and the cheap houses built on permafrost might have to be rebuild and the methane release by it's thawing captured and used for heat and electricity. There is nothing wrong about the climate change for the people of Nunavut, they got to seize the opportunity and forget about theirs archaic ways...

Re:Nature is very very versataile (3, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38260042)

I don't think the warming is a good thing, either.

Well you just removed yourself from the discussion of knowing what the hell you are talking about.

A warmer Canada could grow more crops etc.

In general humans thrive in warmer climates, in all sorts of ways.

You "may not like it" but you certainly have no rational general reason for stating that, just personal preference and being uncomfortable with change (which comes to us all anyway regardless of preference).

Re:Nature is very very versataile (3, Insightful)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 2 years ago | (#38261666)

You seem to forget the part where more than half of the US population may want to migrate to Canada. Northern Canada may become more habitable, but many other places will become way less habitable. And it's unlikely to be a zero-sum game, even if you discount the costs of moving billions of people and their infrastructure all over the world from one place to another.

Well you just removed yourself from the discussion of knowing what the hell you are talking about.

Hear, hear...

Re:Nature is very very versataile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38257148)

The problem with global warming isn't so much that it will produce change, but that it will produce change caused by and unfavorable to humans.

The cause is irrelevant but is usually highlighted in global warming discussions because of some idea that if you stop doing something you will prevent the result of the action. This is is not true for systems with a positive feedback loop but this is ignored since global warming mainly is a political matter.

What is favorable or not is a much more interesting question because it is assumed that humans have the ability to change the climate of this planet. This makes it interesting to define what kind of environment we want and do whatever it takes to get there.

The big problem is to decide the desired end result without people looking at what they want to do and deciding that whatever the end result of that is is desirable.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (4, Insightful)

quasius (1075773) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256944)

People who support dealing with climate change don't seriously think nothing will ever change again. They think that since we now have the ability to effect global climate we should probably be at least trying to do it in a way that isn't terrible for us. Of course the Earth and its life would survive a massive climate shift. But, as a human, I'd rather us go to the stars instead of bombing and polluting ourselves into a regressed society or even extinction.

No they don't (0, Troll)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38260028)

They think that since we now have the ability to effect global climate we should probably be at least trying to do it in a way that isn't terrible for us.

If they thought that they would not be speaking out so strongly against warming as wholly evil; warmer climates historically led to improved living conditions for civilizations across the globe.

Instead they have been trying to promote that warming, whatever the cause, is inherently bad and must be stopped by pouring money into (A) research performed by the alarmists and (B) the alternative companies that warming alarmists have invested heavily in and could not survive on their own, while draining as much money away from "overly rich" target nations and into third world nations (that are easier to collect graft from) as possible.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256964)

So human civilization is just another change in a world that's always changing? Why do we need to be "good neighbors" again?

Re:Nature is very very versataile (1)

kanto (1851816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256988)

Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place.

It's as if these people didn't realize that change is the only thing consistent about our planets biological history. From snowball earth to tropics in the arctic our world has never had a 'normal'. We need to learn to balance ourselves against our planets inevitable future of change.

It's not that most tree huggers are against change, it's mostly about letting nature run it's own course. In this the Berkeley Pit is a good testament to what happens when people don't think in the long term; it's inhabitable to life such as ours unless you count things living in rectums.

On the positive side, yes, some birds still stop there.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (5, Interesting)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257362)

From this page: [pitwatch.org]

In fact, hundreds of waterfowl land on the surface of the Berkeley Pit every month during migration seasons, and they typically fly off unharmed within a few hours, either on their own or through Montana Resource's hazing activities, also known as the waterfowl mitigation program. The 2002 Consent Decree recognizes that "birds exposed to Berkeley Pit water for less than 4-6 hours should not be at substantial risk." ... In November 1995, a flock of snow geese landed on the Pit lake. After several days of stormy weather and fog, 342 birds were found dead.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (4, Informative)

idji (984038) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257000)

people who are "vehement about global warming" are not rejecters of change, are really aware we are one of countless other species, say we should stop being arrogant, and are trying to convince the rest that we should all be good neighbors. A good neighbor willfully doesn't destroy the environment for others within a few generations and fixes up his mistakes. I agree, our world has never had a "normal", but there is a MASSIVE difference between natural change on geological time scales, and deliberate change WITHIN a few generations, giving species no time to adapt.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38257004)

Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place.

You misreading the target of that vehemence to suit a political perspective... They're vehement because, when the bird stops at a new place or runs out of places to stop, that is a signal that things are changing rapidly enough that our own survival may be at stake. Further, we have evidence that suggests our own influence may be a major contributing factor to changes that may or may not be a good thing for us and our neighbors..

We need to be good neighbors? Fine... That's a two way street. Just as we shouldn't stand in the way of change with a judge/jury perspective; we should neither represent a solitary agent of change that could destroy or alter our current ecosystem far outside the bounds of a natural sequence of events. If it's possible or probable that we've already done this, then we owe it to our neighbors to investigate means of stopping and/or reversing these changes. Finally, it's not likely we will ever be a good enough neighbor to set aside our survival instincts to the point that we will ignore evidence that our own survival might be at stake for the sake of *maybe* being the ultimate neighbor and allowing our home to crumble into the sea so a bunch of acid lake extremophiles can evolve into bipeds simply because we needed to pull some metal out of the ground.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38258462)

Actually what I mean by being good neighbors is that we should not pollute for the sake of not polluting. My point is that global warming / climate change is a straw man and we need to move away from that argument.

Look at the damage that was done from the East Anglia University emails. The entire thing has been a distraction at best and caused years of scientific setback in terms of public credibility.

When the climate change straw man gets propped up than it becomes the focus instead of things like conservation and minimizing pollution. These are perfectly sound arguments that deserve to be propped up on their own merit.

Climate change is inevitable and were wasting countless billions and an enormous portion of our scientific knowledge budget trying to fight it. Those resources would be better spent on things like research into Thorium reactors and a hundred other things that /would/ benefit both the environment.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (5, Interesting)

BlueCoder (223005) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257408)

I find it so hard to even have an opinion about global warming because the questions and subject is so loaded.

First of all the global temperature doesn't stay the same, it's constantly rising and falling. Earth has ice ages which are defined as ice sheet existing on planet as is the case currently at our poles and we have glacial periods and interglacial periods which are defined as more extensive ice sheets and the times between them.

The earth naturally undergoes periods without any ice caps all at the poles. Volcanoes erupt all the time (in the geological sense) and put out way way more gases that change the atmosphere more profoundly than man. A bunch of small volcanoes can cause global warming in a few thousands of years and a large super volcano explosion can send us into an ice age and or glacial period overnight.

Earth weather does indeed change and that is the norm.

Human beings are unquestionably contributing to climate change. But how bad is it really vs the climate shifts that would occur anyways if we didn't exist? Where no one makes the distinction is calculating where the climate would be without humans. Global temperatures and been consistently rising since modern man appeared at the beginning of the decline of the last glacial period approximately 12,000 years ago. We probably didn't significantly effect climate until at the earliest 2000 years ago although I suspect is more like after 1200AD. But the earth was warming anyways...

Second they don't comment on possible benefits climate change can have in some areas vs the bad in others. No one seems to even notice that without ice caps we get a new continent to inhabit.

Further it seems to me we are overly focused on greenhouse gases and the atmosphere and temperature. I think a bigger issue of consequence is deforestation of unoccupied land and the over farming of the oceans. The more variety of life the quicker the adaptation rate.

And while we may be totally fuck up this planets current ecology I doubt we could destroy it completely even intentionally. Given our best shot to turn the earth into a desert I bet the earth would be teaming with life again 100 million years later.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38257536)

Why should we be good neighbors, if we are just a part of the ecosystem as you state, then it is the responsibility of the other species to adapt to us if they want to survive. It's very arrogant and condescending that we should feel the need to coddle any and all species incapable of adapting to survive our activities.

Note, I don't really advocate this but just wanted to toss it out as an opposing viewpoint.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38257838)

"Change is inevitable, it's probably my biggest gripe against people that are vehement about global warming, this idea that nothing should ever change. Just because a bird species used to stop at this place means that it should always stop at this place."

Sure. Just like Homo sapiens can become extinct. Or maybe it will merely stop growing food in, say, the entire Midwest because of prolonged drought brought on by climate change. A lot of human misery is possible before achieving extinction, so maybe it would be better if we pay some attention to "less-than-extinction" changes after all. Personally, I don't think it is much of a consolation to know that short of melting and sterilizing the crust of the Earth, life will continue in some form just fine without us. I know that's true, but it isn't particularly satisfying if we aren't one of the species that persists, or if the individuals that survive are miserable. If you really think that mass extinction isn't anything to worry about, then perhaps we should try an experiment like smashing a 10km asteroid into the Earth like back at the end of the Cretaceous. Sure, 60-70% of species might become extinct, but life will rebound after. Maybe with us, maybe without. It won't be so bad.

Also, you should understand that there's probably nothing particularly new in this mine. The bacteria and other organisms colonizing it have been around for a long time, and are a relict from the Archean. They've probably colonized the site from other locations with similar unusual environments preserved to today, such as natural hot springs. New to us isn't usually new.

Damn fool Archean photosynthetic bacteria contaminating the Earth's atmosphere with poisonous oxygen. What were they thinking?

Joe Haldeman on Ecology (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 2 years ago | (#38258110)

Consider: men can't destroy a planet's ecology, not with hydrogen bombs, not with nonreturnable bottles (remember them?). All they can do is change it. Even a featureless radioactive ball of a planet has an ecology, albeit not a complex one.

Mindbridge by Joe Haldeman

Re:Nature is very very versataile (2)

poly_pusher (1004145) | more than 2 years ago | (#38258138)

Organisms as a whole do not "learn to adapt." Some organisms possess intelligence which is a trait allowing conscious adaptation to a changing environment. Most just happen to be born with a trait which suits the changing environment. For instance, say a litter of wolves are born at the beginning of the last Ice age. One or 2 of these wolves have thicker coats than the rest. While the warmer temperature were previously suitable, now the colder temperatures kills off the offspring with thin coats and the thick coat pups grow up and pass along that genetic trait to more of it's offspring. The offspring not possessing it die or are less likely to procreate and so on. They just happen to be well suited and have a better chance of passing on advantageous traits. So you see no reason to try and preserve our environment in a state that suits us well? Frankly I think it is arrogant to decide that we need not do anything because the earth will continue. You are right that the earth has experienced massive changes throughout it's lifespan. That is exactly why we need to understand our impact on the earth. I haven't heard anyone argue that we should save the Earth for the Earth's sake. We need to understand how to keep the earth in a state close to what we've experienced for the last 20,000 years. Does that mean preserving species to maintain their role in an ecosystem? Does that mean reducing carbon emissions into our atmosphere? Does that mean cleaning highly toxic dump sites where only extremophiles can exist? We really don't know do we? And that is exactly why we need to understand our changing world better and try to preserve it best we can until we find out what may alter it past being suitable for human life...

Re:Nature is very very versataile (4, Insightful)

Princeofcups (150855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38258376)

It's as if these people didn't realize that change is the only thing consistent about our planets biological history. From snowball earth to tropics in the arctic our world has never had a 'normal'. We need to learn to balance ourselves against our planets inevitable future of change.

Nature can adapt readily to slow change. The dying off of a species to make way for a new one. But history shows that it does not deal well with rapid change. Nature does not have the time it needs to adapt to the changes that we are doing to this planet. Species are dying off at a catastrophic rate. If the eco system collapses, we go with it. Nature is strong and will survive, but we are just a tiny fragile part of the whole. Man has the capability of causing massive destructive change, to the point that we would not survive it.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38258988)

So you're saying extinction in nature is like bankruptcy in the market?

I like the analogy.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38260188)

Changing the earth to the extent that it beecomes uncomfortable or inhospitable to humans would seem to be a bad idea if you are a human.

Does that sound arrogant to you?

Re:Nature is very very versataile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38261788)

Wow thank you for re-creating that scene from Jurassic Park Jeff.

Re:Nature is very very versataile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38262244)

Wow, you complain about man being arrogant and then arrogantly assume it's fine for us to continue to drive hundreds of species a year to extinction. Please note that this isn't evolution as it has been taking place for millions of years, it's mass extinction based on greed and ignorance.

tourist attraction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38256860)

This must be a first in the history of slashdot: a link to the front page of slashdot.

Not really BP (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256882)

"BP-owned toxic lake"
I'll be the last to support our crony commie-capitalist system, but that's pretty far fetched agitprop.
ARCO ran the place until '82, mothballed it, and then BP bought ARCO 18 years later in '00.
Its a "sins of the father afflicting the sons" argument at best. At worst its a "my great-great-great grandfather immigrated here two decades after the civil war ended, therefore I'm liable and should pay restitution to the g-g-g-g-g-g-great grandsons of former slaves.". BP has about as much to do with what happened to this mine, as I do with what happened on plantations in the 1830s.
Anyone painting with a broad brush, no matter how noble the goal, is usually a crook. Thanks but no thanks.

My geologist ex-roomie did some fieldwork involving acid runoff from mining operations "somewhere out west" donno if this was related. Its a pretty serious local problem. Ironically the more toxic the water, the more likely you'll find someone wanting to refine metals out of the water, making the problem go completely away. Unfortunately sounds like this site is a local maxima of destruction, if the concentration were lower it would just be another boring manmade pond, and if the concentration were higher, you'd have armies of refineries fighting over who gets the refine valuable metal outta the water.

Re:Not really BP (2, Informative)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256920)

"BP-owned toxic lake" I'll be the last to support our crony commie-capitalist system, but that's pretty far fetched agitprop.

They did say BP-owned, not BP-caused/created. So technically it's accurate.

Re:Not really BP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38257188)

No shit. Any literate dumbass can see that.

That's why they can get away with it. GP's point is that it's blatantly just trying to use the BP name to incite interest and fuss. Deserved or not.

Jackass.

Re:Not really BP (3, Interesting)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257330)

No shit. Any literate dumbass can see that.

So you're saying that the GP is an illiterate dumbass? (Your words, not mine). My point was that possibly it was the GP's own pre-conceptions that were the problem and not the article itself. Considering the article contains the following:

So it’s ironic that the damage done by mining is now playing a key role in terms of safeguarding the town’s financial future. “There’s a lot of money in toxic waste,” says Donald, noting that in recent years BP-Arco has poured $800 million into the cleanup of Butte and the Clark Fork River. “I think Butte would be a ghost town if not for those hundreds of millions of dollars,” he says."

it strikes me as pretty fair and balanced on the whole.

Re:Not really BP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38256932)

"my great-great-great grandfather immigrated here two decades after the civil war ended, therefore I'm liable and should pay restitution to the g-g-g-g-g-g-great grandsons of former slaves.".

Also known as affirmative action/positive discrimination practiced in nations worldwide?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmative_action
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reservation_in_India

Re:Not really BP (2)

joebagodonuts (561066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256978)

Legally liable. That liability was part of the purchase. Just sayin'

Re:Not really BP (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38259020)

Then BP needs to go after ARCO.

Re:Not really BP (3)

Miseph (979059) | more than 2 years ago | (#38260628)

BP could certainly try to recover the funds from ARCO, but since they acquired ARCO's assets and turned them into BP's assets, it would be a pretty pointless exercise.

Re:Not really BP (1)

JRowe47 (2459214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38261494)

Contracts at the time made it impossible for BP-ARCO to recover what was lost in the acquisition. The Wikipedia article about the Berkely Pit and Montana Resources is a good starting point if you're interested in the story. It's kinda ironic, but the profit from the other mines acquired with the Pit more than make up for the loss in keeping it clean and research into cleaning technology. Butte provided a helluva lot of copper and other resources to the world - and our mines continue to do so.

It's a perfect example of mining and resource extraction evolving with our understanding of environmental impacts and the balance between human expansion and long-term survivability. They tear down mountains in Butte, MT, to provide copper, molybdenum, silver, and other valuable resources for the rest of the world. It's an amazing thing to watch, having grown up there - you learn a little bit of awe at the fact that humans can tear down mountains, take what they want, and rebuild a mountain on the southeast end of the property. Trucks bigger than your house keep rolling loads of rock and soil, 24 hours a day. Fun stuff, for sure.

Re:Not really BP (5, Insightful)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257116)

"BP-owned toxic lake"
I'll be the last to support our crony commie-capitalist system, but that's pretty far fetched agitprop.
ARCO ran the place until '82, mothballed it, and then BP bought ARCO 18 years later in '00.
Its a "sins of the father afflicting the sons" argument at best. At worst its a "my great-great-great grandfather immigrated here two decades after the civil war ended, therefore I'm liable and should pay restitution to the g-g-g-g-g-g-great grandsons of former slaves.". BP has about as much to do with what happened to this mine, as I do with what happened on plantations in the 1830s.

I'm actually one who does support our crony capitalist system, but you're apologizing too much. One of the tradeoffs of corporate personhood is that since corporations cannot die like a real person (taking their knowledge, skills, and ethics to the grave), their liabilities must be transferred when they're bought and sold. So in this case, BP is in fact liable for the sins of ARCO, and any companies whose liabilities ARCO likewise acquired.

It does bring up an interesting question though. According to TFA, the biologists studying the organisms in the lake patented some of the yeast they found. Shouldn't the patent belong to ARCO/BP, as the progenitor of said yeast? It sounds like a repeat of that spat where some researchers patented some gene derived from a patient's excised cancer tumor, with the patient arguing that the patent rightfully belongs to him since the gene was originally from his body part. "Invention" vs. discovery.

Re:Not really BP (2)

wolvesofthenight (991664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38258388)

No, ARCO should not be given the patent - nor should the researchers - because there should not be such a patent. Assuming the patent is simply on something they discovered then it should be invalid. Patents should be limited to a subset of human creations. Things you find in nature should not be patentable.

liable but not responsible (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38258928)

The responsibility for the disaster fall rightfully on those who created it in the first place (not BP), even if BP is liable for the clean up. It is an important distinction.

Re:Not really BP (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38259566)

If BP can inherit (by purchase) the good things that ARCO created, why shouldn't the good come with the bad? If the gains are ill-gotten, why should that be expunged? If someone steals something and sells it to me, it doesn't mean that item wasn't stolen, indeed, my possession of it is a crime in itself. Granted, it's not too likely I'll be prosecuted for it if I return it to it's rightful owner, but if I don't, it's not quite so easy.

Re:Not really BP (2)

Anonymus (2267354) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257478)

If I steal $50 million dollars and give it to my son, does he have to give the money back? What about when he passes it on to his kid? And they pass it on to their kids? What if they spend the $50 million on building a business empire, or buy a massive mansion, or convert it to gold, or (hint hint) spend it on the best connections and education money can buy, guaranteeing them an advantage over everyone else around them?

What do you believe the statute of limitations should be on reparations?

Re:Not really BP (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257734)

If I steal $50 million dollars and give it to my son, does he have to give the money back?

If you're 100% broke and steal a dime, and through shrewd investment build it up into millions, which in your will you pass on to your son who builds it up to billions, then the descendants of the rightful owner of the original dime have to give you their entire fortune down to the last penny. Or so I learned from "Duck Tales". Possibly the real world does not work this way. :-)

Re:Not really BP (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38258180)

The death of the injured person. There are statutes of limitations on all kinds of torts. Otherwise I want my compensation from the Ruskys for my family's land in Estonia. You see how this is unworkable?

I don't understand why the race baiters don't go after separate but equal education. They have live victims (for a little longer anyhow). They also have sovereign immunity to get past.

Re:Not really BP (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38260156)

What do you believe the statute of limitations should be on reparations?

In the US, I believe it should be equal to the term of copyright protection -- whatever that may be today.

New endangered species! (5, Funny)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256898)

You realize that new creatures inhabiting the the toxic lake must now be protected from anyone wishing to clean up the water. The toxic lifestyle must be preserved! My head is going to explode.

Re:New endangered species! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38257204)

When your head does explode, nothing of value will be lost.

How did they get there? (5, Interesting)

bbartlog (1853116) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256998)

Unanswered but interesting question - where did these extremophiles come from? Are we looking at evolution on a very short time frame (plausible for microorganisms) or are there actually very small numbers of these critters drifting around all the time, just looking for a toxic, acidic lake they can call home?

Re:How did they get there? (2)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257280)

Well, there was at least one answer in there. Some of the organisms are arriving and evolving. There's specific mention of an interesting yeast which arrived in the bowels of some geese that had the misfortune to try to rest there while migrating.

I would assume that most of the novel organisms are evolving there. Some of those organisms have probably had a million generations by now.

Re:How did they get there? (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257840)

Unanswered but interesting question - where did these extremophiles come from? Are we looking at evolution on a very short time frame (plausible for microorganisms)

There's two effects in play here for bacteria evolved locally... The first is that bacteria reproduce rapidly [1], so the bacteria around the pit have gone through an enormous number of generations. (254,000 from the closing of the pit to the present day assuming an average generation time of just one hour [2].) The second is the staggering number of potential ancestors - in the billions in soil surrounding the pit, fecal bacteria from birds and animals, etc... etc...
 
The result is a essentially a giant distributed memory MIMD [wikipedia.org] parallel processor [3] attacking the problem of colonizing the waters of the pit.
 

are there actually very small numbers of these critters drifting around all the time, just looking for a toxic, acidic lake they can call home?

As I point out above, there are numerous potential ancestors. If I had to guess, I'd say they likely didn't colonize the pit directly - they likely colonized the margins and gradually drifted inwards toward the pit with successive generations each able to tolerate a higher level of acid and toxic materials.
 
[1] As little as half an hour under ideal circumstances - which is why food safety recommendations want things kept cool and cooled/or heated rapidly. A very small amount of bacterial contamination can become a big problem in a short time because bacterial population growth is exponential.

[2] Which is why fruit flies, with a generation time of ten days, are popular for genetics studies.

[3] Incidentally, the same is true of the early Earth. Creationists like to point out the unlikelihood of life arising because of the low odds of the right chemical conditions arising - but with thousands of lighting strikes (to take one proposed cause) occurring daily in a wide variety of locations, you have the same distributed memory MIMD effect. Though the chance of a given combination occurring is low, when you're trying multiple solutions in parallel, the odds of that combination appearing rise dramatically.

Re:How did they get there? (2)

petsounds (593538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38260822)

[3] Incidentally, the same is true of the early Earth. Creationists like to point out the unlikelihood of life arising because of the low odds of the right chemical conditions arising - but with thousands of lighting strikes (to take one proposed cause) occurring daily in a wide variety of locations

Actually, according to the NOAA Severe Storms Lab [noaa.gov], lightning strikes the ground of the Earth about eight MILLION times a day. So, a lot more chances than you suggested!

Correct me if I'm wrong (1)

Crouty (912387) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257008)

...but did I calculate correctly? Would the volume really fill a 7.7 by 7.7 km 2 m deep pool? Amazing how diligently man destroys the planet. I for one welcome our new extremophile overlords.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257152)

Yes, your math is about right, though you actually came out a bit low, presumably because you rounded the 2m.
And if you look at the video, it's clearly closer in shape to a cubic pool a half-kilometer on a side.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257938)

you calculated a volume that is completely insignificant to the size of the planet. Amazing how man has made so much of the planet useful, liveable and productive for himself.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (1)

Crouty (912387) | more than 2 years ago | (#38259220)

Yes, if by "himself" you mean the present generation. Following generations might have a less positive perspective.

Later that day... (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38260134)

Yes, if by "himself" you mean the present generation. Following generations might have a less positive perspective.

You mean the ones who get to benefit from an array of amazing drugs produced by this one tiny pit of pollution?

Our ancestors, they may not be as down as you think.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong (1)

Dantoo (176555) | more than 2 years ago | (#38259944)

These unique creatures, spawn of the mother earth, must be protected at all cost! Their precious and dwindling acidic heavy metal environment is threatened by organised international cleanup and restoration societies! They must be stopped! We must act now, band together and join with me in our "Occupy Pit" protest.

Save the extremophiles now!

Extremophile? I might be one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38257018)

I just love the extreme. I love the bright-red-haired angry vegan anarcho-communist feminist punk rocker.

Featured on "The Daily Show with John Stewart" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38257034)

Andrea and Donald Stierle are good friends of mine and they are very dedicated researchers. They were also feature on "The Daily Show with John Stewart" in June 2006 regarding the Berkeley Pit. For a good laugh, watch the Berkeley Pit segment: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-june-22-2006/jones---bad-pit [thedailyshow.com]

Aptoymn (3, Funny)

barlevg (2111272) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257080)

The scientists studying a toxic lake thought to be unable to support life have the last name... Stierle?

the 3-eyed fish is eery (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257110)

At 0:54 in the video you briefly catch a glimpse of a 3-eyed fish jumping out of the lake ... eerily reminiscent of the Simpsons.

Re:the 3-eyed fish is eery (2)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257228)

At 0:54 in the video you briefly catch a glimpse of a 3-eyed fish jumping out of the lake ... eerily reminiscent of the Simpsons.

Unfortunately, that fish is only visible if you're watching the video on the 30th of February.

That's a pretty stupid way to blow two bucks. (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257248)

In the meantime, the Pit has become a tourist attraction in Butte, which charges $2 for the opportunity to take in the view from the Viewing Stand.

Save your money and go to Crater Lake instead.

Re:That's a pretty stupid way to blow two bucks. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38257702)

You've never been to butte have you. If your living in butte, chances are thats your entertainment budget for the month, your not going to Crater lake, and that actually is the best use of your two bucks.

Migratory birds. (1)

slackware 3.6 (2524328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257574)

Migratory game birds land on the tailing ponds in Ft Mcmurry then they die. Green peace starts complaining, and Suncor gets fined even in situations were severe winter storms take out the sonic cannons and other deterrents. Now what system is in place to prevent birds from landing in the pool of acid? And why doesn't Green peace protest against BP? Gulf spill comes to mind.

toxic waste is good for you (4, Insightful)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257866)

the mining company (and hedge fund and investment banks) PR people are obviously loving this.

nevermind the hundreds of thousands of people over the world who are sickened and injured by toxic waste over the years. nevermind that these shareholders and boards of directors keep billions in profit while dumping this sludge cleanup bill on taxpayers.

no. this stuff "might cure cancer!"

you know what would ACTUALLY cure cancer?

if you stop pouring cancer-causing chemicals into the air and water. we know FOR A FACT that air pollution leads directly to asthma and cancer deaths, and yet every year these money sucking scumfucks push and push and bribe politicians so that they wont have to clean it up, so they can keep their profits and their mansions and their trophy wives and their cocaine habits.

fuck them, and fuck the morons who think this is going to 'cure' social problems.

The Coalition to protect Extremophiles (1)

Grand Facade (35180) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257980)

Has demanded that the lake not be cleaned up.

That the natural habitat of the extremophiles must be protected.

Uncommon yeast, uncommon beer (4, Insightful)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 2 years ago | (#38257984)

... an uncommon yeast, which might play a significant role in cleaning up the site.

Never mind the site cleanup. Let's brew uncommon beer.

Re:Uncommon yeast, uncommon beer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38258486)

Amen.

fir5t post (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38259556)

by fundamental knows for sure what filed countersuit, OS I do, because are She had taken Purposes *BSD is a relatively a full-time GNAA quaareled on grandstanders, the

The Butte Hole (2)

crunchygranola (1954152) | more than 2 years ago | (#38260106)

This is such an obvious appellation - we should run with it.

Re:The Butte Hole (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38260564)

As a native Montanan I assure you that "Butte" rhymes with "cute". Make a "b" sound and then follow it with "yute".

Biodiversity Vs the Environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38260272)

Looks like what we have here is an environmentalist's contradiction. Clean up the site and you destroy biodiversity and potentially cause extinction. Yet this is a toxic waste site that resulted from Man raping the environment. What to do?

"Toxic Montana", expecting something else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38261368)

Hanna's drugged out sibling on "Free Meth" night?

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