Posts Tagged ‘Upper Columbia RI/FS’

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

paparichj@live.com

www.northportproject.com

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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