BUTTE, Mont. -- Turning lemons into tourist lemonade, the Chamber of Commerce in this mining city is charging admission to see one of America's largest bodies of toxic water. And people are paying.
"Some people see contaminated water," said chamber executive Marko Lucich. "I see wealth."
The chamber launched a trial run last summer, charging visitors $1 to gaze at the Berkeley Pit and its placid, gray water. There were enough people willing to pay that officials decided to charge again this year -- doubling the price to $2.
Admission fees brought in about $18,600 between June 15 and Sept. 30 last year. Some of the proceeds will go toward improvements intended to make the site even more attractive to tourists.
Pit owner Montana Resources, which operates Butte's only active mine, has deeded the Chamber of Commerce the observation deck and 2 1/2 nearby acres. The chamber plans $275,000 in improvements, including a pavilion, a playground, food service and flush toilets in place of outhouses.