Initial Publication Date: August 25, 2006

Hydrology of Fort Belknap

This page was written by Erin Klauk as part of the DLESE Community Services Project: Integrating Research in Education.

Surface Water Drainage, Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Details

The Zortman Landusky gold and silver mine has released over a dozen cyanide spills causing extensive surface and groundwater contamination, including one spill that released 52,000 gallons of cyanide solution that contaminated the drainage that supplies fresh drinking water for the town of Zortman. A mine employee discovered the accident when he noticed the smell of cyanide in his tap water at home.

In the early 1990's, the State of Montana, the Fort Belknap Tribes and the Environmental Protection Agency filed suits against the company for impacts to water resources due to long-term water quality violations, including cyanide, acids and metals. In response to these lawsuits, the company agreed to construct an additional water treatment plant, to study environmental damage to the groundwater, and to increase water quality monitoring. Unfortunately, in 1998, the company filed for bankruptcy, leaving the state of Montana with $33 million in water treatment and reclamation costs.

In 2003, the Fort Belknap tribes filed suit under the Clean Water Act again because the mine site has continued to discharge toxic pollutants into water resources. The state has determined that water pollution generated by the mine is so severe that expensive water treatment systems will have to be operated forever (Westerners for Responsible Mining).

Current, up to date information on the surface water, ground water and water quality can be obtained here (more info) .

Ruby Gulch flowing through Zortman, MT. Details

To further investigate the hydrology of Fort Belknap, follow the links below.

Hydrology of Fort Belknap

Resources containing information about the hydrology on the Fort Belknap Reservation:

For ideas on how to use these webpages in a classroom, a Study Guide is provided.