Teck held accountable for airborne pollution – per Court ruling

Mining Co. Must Face Airborne Pollution Claims, Court Told

The federal government and a California state agency urged the Ninth Circuit Tuesday to affirm that a Canadian mining company must face allegations from Washington state and a Native American tribal confederation over certain airborne pollutants emitted by its facility that allegedly settled in the Columbia River.
Teck Cominco Metals Ltd., which has been found liable for pollution it dumped directly into the river, asked the appeals court in August to strike new allegations from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the state of Washington that some of the water pollution arose from air emissions, saying the claims are precluded under the circuit court’s decision in a separate case last year.

There, it found that waste initially emitted aerially before falling on land or water doesn’t count as a “disposal” of waste under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

But on Tuesday, the U.S. argued in an amicus brief that Teck’s argument creates a new requirement that isn’t supported by CERCLA’s wording and would undermine Congress’ objectives. Under Teck’s interpretation, polluters could avoid cleanup liability under CERCLA if their pollutants traveled through the air at all before reaching land or water, according to the government’s brief.

“Teck’s crabbed interpretation would negate ‘disposal’ in countless cases, put many polluters beyond CERCLA’s reach, and lead to absurd results that cannot be squared with CERCLA’s text and purposes,” the government told the court.

The lawsuit was filed in 2004 by two members of the tribes, later joined by the state of Washington and the tribes themselves, to enforce a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency order directing Teck to address contamination of the Columbia River that had crossed the border. After Teck settled the EPA’s claims, the suit continued on claims under CERCLA.

The tribes added the aerial emissions claims after U.S. District Judge Lonny R. Suko clarified that his December 2012 decision, finding Teck liable for the tribes’ and state’s costs related to hazardous materials the company dumped into the river, didn’t cover liability for air emissions. The parties are currently litigating the extent to which Teck is liable for damages from the direct pollution.

Teck urged the Ninth Circuit in its August brief to strike the air emissions allegations, citing the circuit’s ruling in Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice v.BNSF Railway Co. The company contends that the August 2014 decision, holding that railroad companies weren’t liable under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act for diesel pollution because the act doesn’t cover pollution that is first emitted in the air, applies to the tribes’ claims because CERCLA incorporates the RCRA’s definition of “disposal.”

On Tuesday, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control echoed the federal government’s comments in a second amicus brief, saying that narrowing the meaning of “disposal” under CERCLA would be contrary to CERCLA’s purpose. Under that interpretation, companies could skirt the regulation by pulverizing their hazardous waste and releasing it into the air, the department said.

The department added that the example isn’t theoretical in California, where lead smelters and certain metal recycling operations emit hazardous substances into the air that eventually fall to the ground.

“A ruling from the court that interprets ‘disposal’ narrowly could inhibit DTSC’s ability to respond under the [California Hazardous Substances Account Act], and to recover costs under CERCLA, to the detriment of California’s citizens and the environment,” according to the brief.

The federal government also argued on Tuesday that Teck’s interpretation of CERCLA relies on an extreme reading of the BNSF case that isn’t applicable in the instant suit. The claims in that case had to do with certain air pollutants that had been directly inhaled, and never reached land or water, the government said, and it was fundamentally about controlling the defendants’ emissions of air pollutants.

The court therefore viewed the suit as an air quality problem under the Clean Air Act, meaning that the plaintiffs’ claims under the RCRA essentially sought to end-run the CAA’s more limited provisions, according to the government.

Attorneys and representatives for the parties were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

The tribes are represented by Paul J. Dayton and Brian S. Epley of Short Cressman & Burgess PLLC.

Washington is represented by Assistant Attorneys General Dorothy H. Jaffe and Thomas J. Young, and Assistant Attorney General and Senior Counsel Christa Thompson of the Washington state attorney general’s office.

Teck is represented by Kevin M. Fong and Christopher J. McNevin of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.

The California Department of Toxic Substances is represented by the California Attorney General’s office.

The U.S. is represented by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The case is Pakootas et al. v. Teck Cominco Metals Ltd., case number 15-35228, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

–Additional reporting by Andrew Westney. Editing by Emily Kokoll.

Request for Northport Resident’s Participation

If you are a current or past resident of Northport, WA and have suffered health issues, specifically:

  • Auto Immune Diseases (MS, Parkinson’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s)
  • Cancers  (report all cancers, but specifically  Bladder, Stomach, Pancreatic, Prostate, Kidney, Brain, Breast)
  • Thyroid/Endocrine Disorders  (Hyper/Hypo Thyroidism, Enlarged Thyroid, Thyroid Cancer, Addisos Disease, etc)
  • Brain Aneurism/Tumors
  • Hearing Loss/Vertigo/ Mieners
  • Heart / Lung Issues (specifically Pulmonary Embolusim)
  • Chronic Sore Throats/Nose Bleeds

I would like to hear from you.  Many of you completed the 2009 Community Health Survey.  However, what I am looking for now is a history of your time in Northport (years lived here and where specifically). Also, illnesses you and/or your family members have been diagnosed with, struggled with, or died as a result of.  Please provide the approximate year the symptoms began.  Also, if you are comfortable, please share how these illnesses have affected you and your families lives.  And some long time residents have shared stories with me from stories they have heard from older relatives, some who even documented the results of Tecks pollution and the havoc and death the toxins causes right befor their eyes.

I am hoping to gather as many personal stories from impacted Residents to help ensure that Northport will receive the Human Health Risk Assessment promised to us for years, and also to create a book of the stories of the impacted residents using your own words, and you and yourheartbreaking sacrificesfrom these emails

Please send your e-mails to:  northportproject@hotmail.com  

They can be as short or as long as you want.

Thank you so much for everyone who takes the time to do this.

Upper Columbia River EPA Study Update

Upper Columbia River Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study Status Report

April 21, 2015

To view the status report of the Upper Columbia River RI/FS Status, presented by EPA Project Manager Laura Buelow and EPA Toxicologist Marc Stifelman, at the 2015 Lake Roosevelt Forum on April 21, 2015.

To view the slideshow on the status report click here:   Upper Columbia River Study Update – April, 2015

Since this update the residential soil clean-ups of Northport residents have begun.

Community meeting on residential soil cleanup and sampling in Upper Columbia Valley

On October 1st, EPA is hosting a meeting in Northport to discuss residential soil clean up that began in late August, results of residential and upland soil sampling to date, and opportunities for residents in the area to participate in additional sampling.

Location: Northport School Cafeteria, 404 10th Street, Northport, WA 99157
Date: Thursday, October 1
Time: 6:30 pm

Click here for additional information provided by EPA.

Teck and EPA reach agreement to clean-up Northport properties

Teck Smelter agrees to clean up 15 lead-contaminated properties in Northport, WA

(Seattle, WA – Aug, 13, 2015)


Teck Metals Limited and Teck American Incorporated have reached a legally binding cleanup agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to begin removing lead and other contaminants from 15 properties in northeast Washington state.

Under the terms of the agreement, Teck will excavate and replace soil on 14 residential properties and one tribal allotment with EPA oversight. The cleanup action will address contamination in the most frequented areas of these properties to reduce the possibility of exposure to toxic substances. The cleanup action is expected to begin this month and end by October, 2015. Three other Colville tribal allotments that qualify for cleanup will be addressed by Teck at a later date.

The cleanups were triggered by two studies, first by the Washington Department of Ecology in 2012 and a second performed by EPA in 2014. The 2012 Ecology study found elevated levels of lead, arsenic and cadmium in soils within two miles of the U.S./Canada border. In 2014, EPA conducted soil sampling at 74 properties in the Northport area, finding very high lead levels at 17 properties and offered to remove the contaminated soil and replace it with clean soil. Under this agreement, Teck will perform those cleanups.

EPA conducted additional sampling in May 2015 which more clearly defined the extent of lead and arsenic-contaminated soil. The work is part of a larger investigative effort that has continued for over a decade near the Columbia River in northeast Washington to assess the environmental and health consequences of pollution at the Upper Columbia River Site.

Lead is known to be harmful to people when ingested or inhaled, particularly to children under the age of six. Lead poisoning can cause a number of adverse human health effects, but is particularly detrimental to the neurological development of children.

For hundreds of years, lead has been mined, smelted, refined, and used in products (e.g., as an additive in paint, gasoline, leaded pipes, solder, crystal, and ceramics). Mining, smelting, and refining activities have resulted in substantial increases in lead levels in the environment, especially near mining and smelting sites.
EPA will continue to assess human health risks and potential cleanup actions for soils at the Upper Columbia River Site not addressed as part of this action.

Plan for Air Monitoring Study in Northport…. Please read and help if you can

The Citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC), myself, and other Northport residents have been trying to get a well planned air monitoring study done in the area.  The last air monitoring done in Northport was from 1993-1997.  The results of these 4 air monitoring studies showed that levels of arsenic and cadmium exceeded the recommended health levels many times over.  The EPA and Ecology were aware of this.  Further testing was promised to continue, sponsored by Teck, and monitored by the WA State Dpt. of Ecology.  No further air monitoring has taken place since 1997.  So the air, known to be toxic in 1997, has been unchecked for the last 18 years.

It is absolutely necessary that a well planned air monitoring study in the area be conducted to determine if contamination is ongoing.

We need everyone to accomplish this!

A form letter has been created by Mindy at the CCC. All that would be required of you is to sign it and email it to the email/contact listed below.  If you would like this form letter please email me at: northportproject@hotmail.com

Then, email the signed form letter to Laura Buelow, the EPA Project Manager of the RI/FS Study being conducted in Northport at: buelow.laura@epa.gov

It will only take you a few minutes to complete this, but the impact the air monitoring could have on keeping current residents, and future generations of Northport residents healthy is invaluable.

These air monitoring tests done in the 1990’s were done on my Grandparents farm.  I saw the results first hand, typed out along with the daily readings.  The levels of arsenic and cadmium were astonishing.  Risk level base for arsenic is 0.0023.  The mid level base of arsenic found in our air was .03.  The risk level base for cadmium is 0.0056.  The mid level base of cadmium found in our air was .01.

Research what chronic exposure to arsenic and cadmium via air emissions will do to a human body.  You will see a lot of similarities to all the clusters of health issues found in Northport residents.

Please just take a moment to complete the form letter.

Thank you,

Jamie Paparich


Lawsuit against Teck Smelter Dismissed

In 2008, along with the non-profit group Citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC), I began reaching out to past and present residents of Northport, WA. After a year of researching the Environmental Protecton Agency (EPA), Dpt. Of Ecology, Dpt of Health (DOH), and the Agency for Toxic Sustaces and Disease Registry  (ATSDR) studies conducted in the Northport area, I discovered information so unthinkable I really didn’t believe it to be true at first. The studies of the U.S. Government Agencies, mentioned above, were of interest to me because they were in regards to the century of heavy metal toxins Teck Cominco had dumped into the Columbia River, and into our air. Teck Cominco, now Teck Resources, is a Canadian lead and zinc smelter located 7 miles from Northport, 3 miles upriver, in Trail, Bristish Columbia.  The slag and air emissions they had sent our way are the by-products of the process Teck uses to smelter the lead and zinc ores. They contain heavy metal toxins such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and sulfur dioxide, just to name a few.

What I discovered in these US agency investigations and reports is that since before 1940 thru 1997 Teck Resources dumped an estimated 9.8 million tons of slag (heavy metal toxins) directly into the Columbia River. This is the equivalence of a dump truck emptying 19 tons, every hour, for 60 years. 19 tons of poison AN HOUR was dumped into the Columbia River, everyday, for 60 years.  The smelter found a free way to dispose of their waste and never so much as questioned the consequences their actions would have on the Columbia River, the environment, or on the health of the residents living in the small communities along the Columbia.

Do you know what else I discovered in the US Agencies investigations and reports? It was just as, if not more, alarming than what I discovered Teck had done. The EPA, Ecology, DOH, and ATSDR had discovered the accumulated toxins, and knew the danger they posed to residents in the area, as far back as the mid 1980’s. However, all their investigations concluded that more information would be needed for further research, And that the area posed an “intermediate health hazard”, but residents were “most likely” not in any immediate danger. Never once did any of the Government Agencies warn, or even tell, anyone living in Northport that they had been, and continued to be, chronically exposed to multiple heavy metal toxins, through multiple routes of exposure, for decades.

The DOH and the ATSDR did a human health assessment in 1994 on a small percentage of residents, because at a town meeting the community demanded they look into the health issues found in many of the residents. They took the blood of approx.. 22 children in Northport. They tested only for lead. They then spoke to the many residents suffering from Thuroid Diseases, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis/Chrone’s), Multiple Scoliosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Brain Tumors/Aneurisms, Brain, Stomach, Kidney, Pancreatic, Bladder, Breast, Eye Cancer and Leukemia. The ATSDR concluded that, although the amount of illnesses found was uncommonly high, further environmental investigations needed to be done by the EPA and Ecology before the DOH could proceed. Ecology completed four air monitoring phases by 1997, all four phases showed levels of cadmium to be higher than recommended safety levels, and arsenic was found to be 300 times higher than accepted safety levels.  The DOH did no follow up on this information.  And, again, residents were not even made aware of the results.

My Father grew up in Northport, along with his siblings and parents. They all suffer, or suffered, from one of the illnesses mentioned above.

The Government Agencies we count on to protect us, and defend us, let us down. They looked the other way for decades as Teck was allowed to dump 9.8 million tons of heavy metal toxins/poisons into our water, as well as the heavy metal toxins (arsenic, cadmium, sulphur dioxide) that they released into our air through their smoke stacks. Even worse, when they were backed into a corner to conduct studies on the impact the toxins had on our environment and health they looked away again. The people I have spoken to with specific knowledge on the subject believe the studies are designed to find in favor of the polluter.  Especially when the polluter is in another country and a fight would cause a cross border litigation, which could back fire on the United States.

Finally, in 2006, Two members of the Pakootas Colville Tribe sued the EPA for inaction. The court ordered, under CERCLA/Superfund Laws, the EPA to immediately begin a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) and a Human Health Risk Assessment of the area. With, or without Teck Resources assistance.

They needed to be sued to be forced to do their jobs to protect us.  These studies are still not complete. How many lives could have been saved if they would have done their jobs correctly from the beginning?

Not enough, according to Teck. An internal memo circulated among Teck management in 1982 that stated that the amount of toxins being dumped daily into the river, and specifically the recent accidental release of 6,630 pds of Mercury into the river, might pose as an issue for Teck down the line if safer guidelines were not put in place.  The memo went on to say immediate action was not necessary because, currently the toxins were coming into contact with an “insignificant amount of people”.  The insignificant people they are referring to are the residents of Northport.

So, Teck felt that the town of Northport, with only 375 residents, was simply insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  375 fathers, mothers, grandparents, children, sisters, and brothers…they were just not significant enough. The friends and family I have lost to these diseases were significant, I promise you that. The friends and family I continue to see suffer with these diseases; giving them basically no quality of life, they are significant.

So this is what led me to reach out to the CCC in 2008.  Many of the resident who began this fight had passed away, or were still living with their debilitating illnesses, as they now watched their children and grandchildren being diagnosed with the same illnesses.  With the assistance of the CCC, and the participation of residents, I conducted a community health survey on three generations of past and present Northport residents. From 2008-2009 I collected 321 questionnaires. The results of the questionnaires showed that, over three generations, 54 respondents had Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease (a very rare disease),  65 respondents had one of the cancers mentioned above,  23 respondents had brain aneurysms/tumors,  8 respondents had pulmonary embolism,  9 respondents had MS, and  13 respondents had Parkinson’s disease. These are just some of the health issues that were discovered. This may seem like a somewhat small amount. But in a population of 375 people these disease rates are all considered epidemiological health clusters by the scientific community. Meaning their exposure to some environmental factor(s) were most likely the trigger of these diseases, or at least played a significant role.

Since this health survey was done by residents, and not by the EPA, Ecology, DOH or the ATSDR, they had no interest in the results.

Luckily, the results of the survey caught the attention of Dr. Korzenik, a physician and researcher from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). He agreed to bring his assistants up to Northport, and with the help of MGH, and Harvard University, he conducted his own study on his specialty, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. It bares mentioning he has done countless of these studies over the years. After months and months of walking door to door, calling, and emailing residents to complete his survey, gathering medical history, and mapping out the findings, he was ready to publish his results. He discovered that the health cluster of residents with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease found in Northport, WA was one of the biggest he had ever seen. It was 11.5 to 15% higher than would be expected. He also believed this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to study these diseases that currently have no cure, and are very rare and very misunderstood.

Dr. Korzenik and I shared the same hope. That once his study was published in a scientific journal we would get the attention needed to hold Teck responsible and use the suffering residents of Northport, who were more than willing, to take part in an epidemiological study on them and the area. Further studies could lead to information that could help cure, or at least prevent, people from getting Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease in the future. We also hoped the study would attract the attention of specialists in Multiple Scoliosis, Parkinson’s, specific Cancers, etc. This little town, that had suffered over three generations was willing to let themselves be poked and prodded in the hopes to save future generations from suffering the pain and anguish they had lived with. They didn’t want money, they didn’t want the smelter to be shut down, they just wanted to help. And they wanted their Government Agencies to help them, in forcing the smelter to cut their toxic releases to the levels their permits allowed.

As Dr. Korzenik worked on his study, and was shopping it around for publication, an excellent law firm from Seattle contacted me. They wanted all my research and I happily sent it on to then, along with the smoking guns…the US Agencies own published reports.

The law firm believed that, along with the real evidence, provided by Teck because of the Freedom of Information Act, the US Agencies lack of investigating, and the results and publication of Dr. Korzenik’s study, these long-suffering residents had a real shot at bringing a civil lawsuit against the multi million dollar smelter. Most of the residents were not that interested in joining the class action suit. They believed that no amount of money would bring back their loved ones, or the years their poor health had stolen from them. Also, they told me again and again…”you don’t stand a chance.” They told me, Teck is a Canadian company the US does not want to get into a cross border litigation with, and their pockets are very deep. They had been fighting this fight for decades. Since the first Northport farmers sued Teck in 1933 for their air emissions killing their livestock and crops, to the groups of residents who continued the fight since. My Grandparents were a part of the CCC, and apart of that fight. My Grandpa succumbed to Leukemia and my Grandma passed away because of Parkinson’s.

But these excellent lawyers believed in the case. The lawyer’s initial filing was accepted by the Court. Teck, of course, filed for the case to be dismissed. The Judge denied their request to dismiss the case, and said they would stand trial. This finally happened in January of 2015. 7 years after I began this journey, and 101 years after the smelter began using the Columbia River as their personal toxic dumping ground, and sending their toxic air emissions down wind to settle into the Northport valley.

We were getting closer than we had ever gotten. However, in May of 2015 I received a call from our lawyer. Dr. Korzenik’s compelling, and undeniably groundbreaking research paper had been suddenly denied publication in any scientific journal. Without this study being published, by the scientific community, they could not go forward with the lawsuit. And although Dr. Korzenik is still actively trying to get the study acknowledged in the scientific community, the law firm had no choice but to withdrawal the civil suit and let Teck walk again. The lawyers themselves indicated to me that it was very probable Teck played a role in getting the planned publication of the study squashed.

So after all the work of countless people it seems Teck wins again, for now. I did reach out to Teck and asked, since they had openly admitted in court, that they did in fact pollute the river as was reported, if they would consider funding annual check-ups, blood tests, and hair samples to monitor the heavy metal build up in residents, and to provide proactive exams to detect the diseases found in the area in residents. They declined, probably because they still refuse to admit there is any connection between the toxins they admit to dumping by the truckload for over 100 years, and the health issues found in the residents of Northport. Did I mention all the illnesses found in clusters in the residents have all been scientifically linked to chronic exposure to the heavy metal toxins Teck has admitting been releasing for decades.


Please feel free to email me with any questions or ideas.


Thank you for taking the time to read this!


Jamie Paparich




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