Posts Tagged ‘Upper Columbia RI/FS’

Decision in Teck pollution case will be later this year

Judge to weigh Teck pollution case

Decision on Colvilles’ suit will be later this year

Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press

October 11, 2012

A federal judge in Yakima will decide whether a Canadian mining company must pay to clean up pollution that for decades crossed the border into Lake Roosevelt in Washington.

U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko heard motions on the lawsuit Wednesday and said he will issue a decision later this year.

The long-running lawsuit was filed by the Colville Tribes against Teck Metals Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C. The company operates a huge smelter at Trail, B.C., that for nearly a century dumped mining slag into the Columbia River.

Heavy metals pollution traveled down the river into the United States at Lake Roosevelt, which is the 150-mile-long reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam.

One major issue is whether a Canadian company is subject to U.S. environmental law.

John Sirois, chairman of the Colville Tribes, said U.S. law should prevail.

“Where does the pollution end up? That’s where the jurisdiction should end up,” Sirois said after the hearing.

Last month, on the eve of trial, Teck Metals reached a settlement in the case in which it admitted that some portion of the mining pollution in the reservoir came from its smelter. The settlement eliminated the need for a trial scheduled for September, but numerous jurisdictional and other legal issues remain.

Teck is one of Canada’s largest mining companies, and its lead-zinc smelter 10 miles north of the U.S. border is among the largest of its kind in the world. State and federal authorities contend the company and its predecessors discharged mining slag into the river from 1896 to 1995.

That slag then flowed into Washington, causing significant heavy metal contamination in Lake Roosevelt.

A decade ago, the Colville Tribes petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess contamination in the reservoir. In 2003, the EPA decided that Teck was subject to the U.S. Superfund law. The agency demanded the company pay for studies to determine the extent of the contamination and then clean it up.

The tribes filed suit in 2004 to force Teck to comply with that order, and the state joined the lawsuit as an intervener.

In 2009, a federal judge ordered Teck to reimburse the Colvilles for more than $1 million the tribes had spent on the case over five years.

The company in 2006 reached a deal with the EPA to study the extent of the pollution in Lake Roosevelt. That study is expected to be finished in 2015. Teck contends the extent and cost of cleanup cannot be determined until that study is finished.

Teck contends that study results so far have shown that water in the lake meets Canadian and U.S. quality standards, that beaches are safe for recreational use and that fish in the river system are safe to eat.

© Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

NPR Investigation on our toxic air and the neglected communities often forgotten about

Excellent NPR series on toxic air and the neglected communities throughout the United States

With assistance from The Center for Public Integrity the NPR investigative reporters created the excellent series “Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities”

Below is a brief intro describing the series, followed by an in depth article about how the data was gathered and how NPR utilized the information for their investigation.

I highlighted a few sentences in red in the last paragraph. These pertained specifically to the situation of air monitoring done in Northport in the past.

I urge you to read more articles from the series. They are all frustrating, heartbreaking and all to familiar stories about small communities being ignored and forgotten for decades as the polluters, Congress, EPA and State and Federal Agencies have been fighting a losing battle amongst each other.

The most discouraging part for the residents of Northport and the other small communities and Tribes living along the Upper Columbia River is we are not even privy to the flawed regulations and incorrect, out of date monitoring the EPA is providing some. Teck Smelter, the proven source of pollution to the Upper Columbia River and beaches, is a Canadian company and is not monitored by the United States.

To read more on the NPR Poisoned Places series go to: http://www.npr.org/series/142000896/poisoned-places-toxic-air-neglected-communities

Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities

Two decades ago, Democrats and Republicans together sought to protect Americans from nearly 200 dangerous chemicals in the air they breathe. That goal remains unfulfilled. Today, hundreds of communities are still exposed to the pollutants, which can cause cancer, birth defects and other serious health issues. A secret government ‘watch list’ underscores how much government knows about the threat – and how little it has done to address it.

Poisoned Places: About The Data

by NPR AND CPI STAFF

The Poisoned Places series relied on analysis of four datasets relating to sources of air pollution regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: the Clean Air Act watch list, the Air Facility System (AFS), the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and the Risk Screening Environmental Indicators model (RSEI).

The Clean Air Act Watch List

The Center for Public Integrity and NPR obtained the “watch list” through a Freedom of Information Act request to the EPA. Two versions of the list were obtained: one current as of July 2011, the other as of September 2011.

While these facilities are regulated by the states and the EPA, not all facilities report to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI); certain criteria must be met.

Further research indicated that two of these facilities are under construction, two are temporarily closed and nine are permanently closed. Additionally, not all were flagged in the data as high priority violators (HPVs) as of August 2011. The Center for Public Integrity and NPR placed watch list facilities into industry categories and used the primary four-digit Standard Industrial Code; data entry for the more current North American Industry Code System was not as consistent.

(This link provides more information about the watch list.)

The Air Facility System

AFS tracks permit, enforcement and compliance information for sources of air pollution. All major sources and some minor sources are required under the Clean Air Act to obtain operating permits that stipulate what they must do to control air pollution. The data contain information about inspections, enforcement actions, penalties and compliance, including HPV status. The HPV flag is activated when a facility has a high priority violation, as defined by criteria established in a 1998 EPA memo (PDF). It is deactivated when the violation is fully resolved. In some cases an HPV flag can remain after a violation has been resolved.

State or local agencies are required to report data to the EPA on a regular basis. However, because of some technical complications or lack of diligence, data are not always entered in a timely manner. Therefore the data do not always present a complete picture of enforcement or compliance for a particular facility. States’ comments on data inaccuracies can be found on the EPA’s website.

The Center for Public Integrity and NPR downloaded AFS data from the EPA Web site in October, and the data are current as of August 2011. To compensate for incomplete data, The Center for Public Integrity and NPR contacted multiple state and local agencies, EPA regional offices and the national office in Washington, D.C., to try to corroborate information gleaned from AFS.

The Center for Public Integrity also obtained a detailed subset of the AFS database, through the Freedom of Information Act, listing each Clean Air Act violation deemed “high-priority” by regulators. The table shows who committed the violation and details the steps regulators have taken to address it.

(Read more about AFS at this link.)

The Toxics Release Inventory

The TRI, authorized under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), houses emissions data reported yearly by polluting facilities. Over 20,000 facilities reported emissions of over 600 chemicals in 2009, including most of the 187 hazardous air pollutants that the EPA is required to control, as defined in the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.

Not all toxic chemicals or sources of pollution are included in the TRI, however. Smaller sources (such as dry cleaners and gas stations) and mobile sources are not required to report. Only facilities in certain industry sectors, with a minimum level of production and number of employees, must report each year (PDF).

In addition, some quantities reported are estimated rather than monitored, and facilities use different estimation methodologies that could result in slightly different amounts. It is widely acknowledged that the TRI also contains some reporting errors, and in some instances facilities underreport.

The EPA also notes that no health risk conclusions can be drawn from the TRI alone, since there is no information on toxicity or distribution of chemicals.

The Center for Public Integrity and NPR analyzed the most recent complete version of data through 2009. Only fugitive and stack (on-site) air releases were considered when analyzing emissions. Completed 2010 reports became available from the EPA 11 days before publication — after the Center for Public Integrity and NPR finished their analysis. The Center for Public Integrity and NPR plan to use the 2010 data as the series continues.

(Read more about the TRI at this link.)

The Risk Screening Environmental Indicators

RSEI was created by the EPA to assess chronic human health risks from chemical releases reported in the TRI. For each release (say, X pounds of benzene released from an oil refinery in 2007) the model takes into account the toxicity of the chemical, its fate and transport through the environment, the exposure pathway (air or water) and the number of people potentially affected. The model produces a relative risk score for each release. The latest version of the model (version 2.3.0) is based on the 2007 version of the TRI.

The screening model does not produce a measurement of actual risk, nor does it address acute (or immediate) risk from toxic air releases. It produces relative results for comparison, and its primary use is for identifying chemicals, industries or localities that require further investigation.

The model makes some necessary assumptions that should be considered when looking at its risk scores. Chemicals are assigned toxicity weights, but in some cases where chemicals are grouped together, the entire group is assigned the toxicity of its most toxic member. Also, if some facility information (such as stack height) is unavailable, the model will plug in alternate information (such as the national median stack height) .

Since the model is based on TRI reports, it is subject to the same caveats. If a facility reported incorrectly in 2007 and later amended the report, the incorrect quantity will be reflected in the RSEI score, which was calculated using the 2007 version of the TRI.

For the interactive map, The Center for Public Integrity and NPR used the latest version of RSEI to place facilities in one of five risk categories. Before doing this, several RSEI experts were consulted, both inside and outside of the EPA. To place the facilities in a risk category, The Center for Public Integrity and NPR first averaged the risk screening scores associated with the facilities over the five-year period, from 2003 to 2007 (the latest year of data available).

Because the initial analysis revealed the distribution of those averages to be skewed, The Center for Public Integrity and NPR applied a Log10 data transformation to place the data in a normal distribution. Once transformed, the data were grouped into five categories based on the transformed quantities, from lowest to highest.

(Read more about RSEI at this link.)

About This Investigation

The series “Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities” was reported by NPR’s Elizabeth Shogren, Howard Berkes and Sandra Bartlett, together with Jim Morris, Chris Hamby, Ronnie Greene, Emma Schwartz and Kristen Lombardi from the Center for Public Integrity. Data analysis for this series was by Robert Benincasa of NPR and Elizabeth Lucas of CPI. Researchers Barbara Van Woerkom of NPR and Devorah Adler of CPI also contributed to this investigation.

Additional stories have also been done in partnership with NPR member stations and the Investigative News Network

Teck Smelter continues using Upper Columbia as their sewer….

Teck Smelter sewage spills into Upper Columbia River….common practice for decades, but Teck puts spin on it this time, especially when they are in need of some good PR….for more info click this link:
http://cleancolumbia.org/documents/washington_dept_of_ecology_news.pdf

Citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC)

Become a member of the Citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC)!

Please take a moment to do so at: CCC Membership Application

The annual membership fee of $25.00 and any donations (to donate go to: CCC Donation Info) go towards the tremendous work all the dedicated members donate their spare time to.

The work they have accomplished, and continue to accomplish, is on behalf of every resident living in the communities along the upper Columbia River that don’t get updates and technical documents or any information at all.

Currently their attention is focused mainly on the workplans for upcoming and already completed testing/sampling done in the Upper Columbia River Remedial Investigation/Fesability Study (RI/FS) being done by Teck, and the EPA’s on-going Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA).

With the extensive knowledge and experience all the board members bring to their work, they are able to catch possible in discrepancies or issues in past and current researches and data collection.

They are a respected organization who both Teck and the EPA rely on to point out issues or problems in their on going investigations. They are the watchdogs for all the communities impacted from the Smelter’s pollution.

Because of them each resident from these communities are being given a voice and the most important thing being said ,on your behalf, to Teck and the US Agencies involved is “someone is watching, this time things will be done correctly or we will not only stop them, we will hold you accountable.”

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