Teck’s “dissapointment” is disgraceful

Sept. 9, 2016

By  Jamie Paparich

Last month a U.S. District Court Judge ruled Teck, a Canadian smelter, must pay the Confederated Tribes of the Colville (Washington) Reservation $8.25 million in reimbursement of the Tribe’s legal expenses that have mounted in the two decade long legal battle with the smelter.  The battle was over the millions upon millions of heavy metal toxins Teck admittedly dumped into the Columbia River for over a century.

Teck responded to this ruling, stating it was “disappointed.”  A spokesman for Teck said that the smelter has already spent over $75 million on human health risk assessments and environmental investigations of the Upper Columbia River, as part of the agreement they reached with the EPA.

In 1999 the EPA issued a unilateral order, forcing the smelter to cooperate in the studies and clean-up of the Upper Columbia River.  Teck fought this agreement, spending millions of dollars in legal fees, until 2006.  They finally began their investigation into the area in 2008, insisting on redoing studies the EPA had already completed.  The studies, assessments and clean-ups they have completed have been less than earth shattering.  As a matter of fact most of them appear to be more for good PR then for the people and the land.  If they have spent $75 million so far the majority of that money was likely spent on attorney fees for the countless appeals they have filed trying to get out of their responsibilities. 

The company also stated that they have invested $1.5 billion upgrading the smelter, in an attempt to be in regulation with their environmental permits.

I am having a difficult time sympathizing with the financial burden Teck feels has been placed upon them.  If they want to talk numbers how about these numbers; 

  • Between 1906 thru 1995 Teck dumped 58, 611, 000 tons of heavy metal toxins into our river, our beaches, our land, and our lives.   
  • Between 1982 thru 2016 over 240 Northport residents have been diagnosed with similar, rare, auto immune diseases linked to chronic heavy metal exposure. 
  • 23 residents have suffered, or died, from brain aneurisms, the majority of those 23 people lived in a 2-3 mile radius.
  • 110 residents passed away from one of four cancers often diagnosed in the community, and also linked to chronic heavy metal exposure.

If Teck is disappointed in the $8.25 million they have to pay to the Colville Tribes maybe they should take a moment and add up our numbers.

State, tribes to challenge ruling on cross-border emissions

Originally published August 12, 2016 at 6:07 pm

 
By The Associated Press

 

SPOKANE — Washington state and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation say they intend to challenge a federal appeals court ruling that said a Canadian company can’t be held liable for toxic air pollution that drifted into the state.

The July 27 decision from a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals partially dismissed Superfund claims against Teck Resources, which owns a smelter in Trail, British Columbia. For more than a century, pollution from the smelter’s smokestacks funneled down the Columbia River valley and settled over Northport, Washington.

Testing has found high levels of lead and arsenic downwind of the smelter, and a federal judge in Spokane found the company liable.

But the appeals court said that emitting pollutants into the air did not meet the definition of actions for which the company could be held responsible. The state and tribes say they will seek a rehearing in the 9th Circuit, The Spokesman-Review reported.

“We believe that our case is strong and that there is no difference in how the pollution … is impacting the environment, whether it originated from air or water,” said Brook Beeler, a spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Ecology.

The ruling didn’t address claims related to pollution that was dumped directly into the river. The smelter dumped hundreds of tons of slag daily into the river until 1995, when the B.C. government halted the practice after determining the smelter byproduct was toxic to aquatic life. The slag forms the “black sand beaches” of the Upper Columbia.

In an email, Teck spokesman Chad Pederson said the company reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pay the cleanup costs for 14 residential properties last year, and for ongoing soil testing. Teck’s attorneys are reviewing the recent ruling, he said.

The tribal reservation’s boundaries originally extended to the Canadian border, encompassing the area that’s now Northport, said Michael Marchand, the tribe’s chairman.

“Most people don’t know the land history, or that tribal members retain the legal right to hunt and fish in that former territory,” Marchand said. “Lots of toxic material was released into that area.”

Many of the tribe’s members depend on wild game and fish for a subsistence diet, potentially exposing them to heavy metals and other pollution. For them, hunting and fishing “is not a sport, and it’s not a luxury food,” Marchand said.

In 2004, two members of the Colville Tribes sued Teck in U.S. District Court under the Superfund law. The state of Washington later joined the lawsuit.

The Associated Press

Ninth Circuit rules in favor of Teck smelter on liability claim

Original article published at Lake Roosevelt Forum, http://www.lrf.org

A three judge panel from the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that aerial deposition from the Teck smelter in Trail, Canada does not constitute “disposal.” As such, Teck cannot be held liable for hazardous substances such as lead, arsenic and mercury emitted from Trail smoke stacks that traveled through the atmosphere and then deposited in the Upper Columbia Valley. Washington State and the Colville Confederated Tribes brought the case to hold Teck liable for cleanup costs and natural resource damages under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA (also known as superfund).

The court relied heavily on two precedents that parse the meaning of “disposal of waste” under CERCLA. In one of the precedents, the ninth circuit ruled that BNSF Railway emitting diesel particulate matter into the air that resettled onto the land and water did not constitute disposal of waste and thus not subject to liability under CERCLA.

News reports indicate plaintiffs will petition for a new hearing before the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Potentially, the case could be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under terms of a 2006 settlement agreement between EPA and Teck, Teck has funded soil sampling and remediation related to atmospheric deposition in the Upper Columbia Valley. In 2014, EPA sampled 74 residential properties which led to cleanup on 14 properties. This year, 142 property owners granted access for soil sampling that begins this month.

Click here for a National Law Review article reviewing the case and its implications.

Documentary makers visit Northport- view clips from filming

What began as a class project for Anne Fischel and Lin Nelson, two professors from Evergreen State College, grew into a multi-media project documenting the experiences of three communities with prolonged relationships with the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO).

Through research, film, photography, oral history, analytical writing, a website, and a documentary, Their Mines, Our Stories document the experiences and struggles of these communities, left to deal with the fallout of ASARCO smelter’s decades of unregulated pollution once they closed their doors and filed for bankruptcy.

Through their shared conditions, these communities are fighting to strengthen policy framework, pollution control laws, regulations and emission standards.
Anne and Lin are reaching out to other communities impacted by industrial pollution, struggling to find answers, assistance, and solutions from the polluters and their state and federal agencies.

This is what brought them to Northport. In May Anne and Lin met with Northport community members at the high school, where we screened their documentary “Under the Smoke Stack.” After the screening Carlos Martinez, a community advocate from Smeltertown in El Paso, TX, called in and we shared our experiences dealing with the polluters, the EPA, and the changes that needed to be made to benefit small communities going forward. We all agreed that if small communities like ours worked together we could create a larger information network.

The following day they filmed interviews with several residents, who shared their stories of how decades of exposure to toxic pollution had impacted their lives. Clips from these interviews can be viewed at: Vimeo – Northport, WA clips. (Click to view)  

The difficulties small communities, impacted by big polluters, face is our size makes us easy to overlook.

However, if we work with other small communities like ours we will become bigger, our voices will become louder, and we will become harder to overlook. With a stronger voice we can work together to make positive changes to impact and strengthen policy, regulations, and environmental health laws.

To read more about Their Mines, Our Stories: Work, Environment and Justice in ASARCO- Impacted Communities visit Anne and Lin’s website at:  http://www.theirminesourstories.org/

The Death List

In 1992 reporter Julie Titone wrote an article in the Spokesman-Review, “Canadian companies suspected in illnesses.”  The article focused on a group of mothers in Northport, Washington and the health effects their small community suffered from because of, in their opinion, chronic exposure to the heavy metal toxins released by a Canadian smelter 3 miles up river, Teck Cominco.

The article begins with neighbors Naomi Palm, Faye Jackman, and Kay Paparich sitting in Naomi’s kitchen. In front of Naomi was her hand written notes of a health survey the women conducted in the community.  The notes listed the similar illnesses her and all her neighbors, family, and friends suffered from.  Naomi called it her “death list”.  The list contained 45 previous residents who passed away from four types of cancer, and 163 residents all suffering from similar diseases. In a town of 375 people the list was alarming, to say the least.

At the time of the article the small community was paralyzed with fear. Children continued to be diagnosed with two rare intestinal diseases, friends and neighbors were passing away from brain aneurisms or tumors, cancer, or suffering from the debilitating effects of multiple scoliosis and parkinson’s disease.

The town first became aware of the startling amount of illnesses being diagnosed in the community in the late 1970’s.  After repeated requests, the Washington State Department of Health finally did a health investigation in 1988.  However, the health investigator who conducted the investigation left the department and the findings were never made public.

So in 1991 these determined women began conducting their own health survey of the community.  After months of knocking on doors they compiled the information their neighbors had provided.  They discovered that of the 7 families living along Mitchell Road, all living within a 2 mile radius of each other, fifteen children had been diagnosed with 2 rare auto immune diseases, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. At the time of the survey approximately 1 in 100,000 people were diagnosed with either Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s in the United States.

The woman also discovered that of the six families living along Waneta Road, across the Columbia River from Mitchell Road, 12 people had died, or suffered from, brain aneurisms or brain tumors.  Statistically 8-10 people out of 100,000 people suffer from a brain aneurism in the United States.    

Naomi mapped out the illnesses collected from their survey in an attempt to understand if their route of exposure to the smelter’s toxins might be the common denominator effecting their families with these rare illnesses.  Their exposures differed in many ways. Not everyone swam in the river, not everyone grew their own gardens, or ate the fish…..but the one common denominator quickly became clear.  It was the air.  The families all lived in a valley, next to the Columbia River.  The pollution flowing north from the smelter often got trapped in the valley walls.

Two months after the 1992 article was published the Washington State Department of Ecology began the first of four phases of air monitoring in the area.  The results of all four phases of the monitoring showed that levels of arsenic were 200 times higher than national safety standards, and levels of cadmium were 18 times higher.  Ecology issued the smelter a warning that continuous air monitoring of the area was necessary.  The residents of Northport were never made aware of these results.  Teck did continue to monitor the air until 2006, according to EPA documents.  The levels of arsenic and cadmium continued to exceed safety standards at the same rate.

The 1992 article ended with Kay Paparich voicing her concern for future generations of Northport residents, “It’s too late for my children because they’ve already got these problems, but what about the little ones coming up?”

“The little ones coming up”, that Kay was so concerned about in 1992, are now in their 20’s and 30’s, suffering from the same illnesses that these women discussed in Naomi’s kitchen 24 years ago.

In 2009 residents conducted another community health survey of past and present Northport residents.  The results mirrored those of the 1991 community health survey, and confirmed Kay’s concerns were valid.  Not only were residents still being diagnosed with the same health issues, at the same rate, reported cases of multiple scoliosis, Parkinson’s and cases of the four types of cancers of concern had increased.

What these women discovered by coming together and using plain common sense, took government agencies decades, and millions of dollars, to finally realize.  The agencies were able to negotiate with the smelter to remove contaminated soil from beaches along the Columbia River, residential property, and upland soil.  However, the air still continues to be ignored.  If the smelter is monitoring it, they are no longer sharing the results with our government agencies, and our government agencies are not monitoring it.

The 1936 USDA Forest Damage Air Modeling Study, the EPA decade long remedial investigation, Ecology’s air monitoring, soil and wetland studies, The Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), and Teck’s own remedial investigation, have all confirmed that the primary source of contamination of the Upper Columbia River area is Teck Resources.  More specifically, Teck’s aerial dispersion of heavy metal toxins, through their smoke stakes, is the primary source of contamination.

EPA project manager Laura Buelow stated, “(T)he data shows that the soil became contaminated from historical smelting operations at the Trail smelter, specifically the metals coming out of the smelter stacks (air).”

To simplify the point;  between 1921-2005 Teck smelter released; 38,465 tons of Zinc, 22,688 tons of Lead, 1,225 tons of Arsenic, 1,103 tons of Cadmium, and 97 tons of Mercury through their air emissions.

Teck’s air emissions have poisoned over three generations of Northport residents.  Still nothing is being done to protect the next three generations, or the generations after that.

Jamie Paparich

Documentary/Activists – Meeting THIS Saturday in Northport

REMINDER:  The group with Their Mines, Our Stories: Work, Environment and Justice in ASARCO-Impacted Communities will be visiting Northport this weekend.

Through research, film, photography, oral history and analytical writing, they are documenting communities located near smelters, struggling with the impacts of decades of pollution on their environment and health.

Their goal is to explore “how communities, through dedicated and strategic networking around shared conditions, have sought to impact and strengthen the policy frameworks that shape environmental and occupational health.”

Please join us THIS Saturday, May 28th at 2:00 p.m., at the Northport High School, to participate in a meeting to hear about the group’s impressive work.  It is their hope we can all work together to make positive changes in laws and regulation that will allow the industry to continue to operate successfully, but protect the health and environment for future generations.

They will also be filming Northport residents, interested in sharing their stories, on Sunday, May 29th.  More information about this will be addressed at the meeting Saturday.

 

MEETING INFORMATION

DATE:   Saturday, May 28th

TIME:   2:00 p.m.

LOCATION:   Northport High School

 

 

Northport Museum -Open Saturday

The museum will be open on Saturday from noon to 4pm. Please come see our little museum and learn about our town’s colorful history. I will come up with a map to give you a short self-guided tour of historic sites.

–  Jael Regis,  Northport, WA Historical Society

%d bloggers like this: