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Kettle Falls Focus Northport Project Article
The Northport Project
Part I of a series of articles involving the effects on U.S. citizens living south of Canadian smelter Teck Resources Kettle Falls residents are encouraged to participate in health survey
by Peggy Mandin
The Northport Project was created by a group of citizens concerned about the effects of long-term exposure to toxins emitted and dumped by Teck Resources (formerly Teck Cominco and also referred to as Teck), a Canadian lead and zinc smelter located three miles north of Northport on the Columbia River. The goal of the Project is to educate the community about what health effects have been documented in the Northport area, to invite all current and former residents to participate in a confidential health questionnaire and to offer free annual health screenings to monitor and catch possible disease at an early stage.
How it all began
Jamie Paparich, a woman who grew up on a farm near Northport, began spearheading an effort to uncover information about health issues in that area in 2008.
It all started because of a “fluke”, according to Paparich. She was looking for a picture of the family farm on the Internet to give as a gift; when she entered her information “suddenly all kinds of studies began popping up” regarding the Northport area, studies she had been unaware of. Perusing this information caused her some alarm and she began calling and emailing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Health (DOH) who were connected to the studies. She said she “must have hit a nerve” because she got immediate responses from both agencies wondering why she was looking for information, and then leading her to other existing documents and official information.
Paparich discovered during her research that the Paparich farm had originally been tested for fallout from air toxins in 1989, specifically toxins released from the Teck smelter.
Wind patterns had caused emissions from the smelter to hang in the air around Northport, air that did not readily disperse and remained trapped in the valley.
Subsequent testing was done on the soil, garden crops, animals and well water in the 1990’s. Results indicated that the area was in a heavy fallout zone from the smelter.
Later in 2008, Paparich contacted Citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC), because Teck had been dumping emissions from the smelter process into the Columbia River as well as releasing them into the air. 450 tons of emissions a day were dumped into the Columbia River between 1940-1996, according to Paparich. She discovered that CCC had also been trying to get information about the possible health consequences of pollution from Teck’s actions. Paparich joined CCC and they have combined forces to acquire more information and to educate the public about their findings.
Diseases such as leukemia, ulcerative colitis (Crohn’s disease), thyroid disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, tumors and a long list of cancers have been occurring in the Northport area in numbers higher than expected for a general population. That is, there is a disease “cluster” that is cause for follow-up.
Paparich personally has many family members who are suffering from many of these ailments, which spurred her research and led her to create the Northport Resident Health Questionnaire.
A future article will go into further detail about documented health problems.
The Northport Resident Health Questionnaire
This questionnaire is aimed at residents of all ages who have lived or currently live in the Northport area, including Kettle Falls. While individual health histories are kept confidential, “the data collected from each health screening can be used in long-term studies to follow disease trends”, according to Paparich.
Studies have, and will continue to be, focused on the effects of “chronic exposure to multiple heavy metal toxins released via multiple routes from Teck Resources”.
Diseases being tracked are multigenerational; grandparents, parents and children have all been adversely affected by exposure to toxins, bringing up the possibility of genetic mutations.
Paparich is following three generations of people born and/or living in the Northport area since 1925 to help identify what health issues are occurring. On the questionnaire a checklist of specific categories of diseases is listed. These categories were selected based on personal reports and “research done on the potential influence of chronic exposure to heavy metal toxins (arsenic, cadmium, lead, copper ,zinc, manganese, mercury) released by lead and zinc smelters”.
The Health Questionnaire asks a number of pertinent questions and is easy to fill out. It asks about time lived or spent in Northport or surrounding communities, type of work done, exposure to the old LeRoi Smelter site, health issues (checklist), family history of Crohn’s Disease or cancer, and whether or not a person is interested in having a hair sample tested for heavy metals. There is also room to write in any other information that might be important to consider.
Paparich has sent out over 500 health questionnaires since 2008 and has received 476 back to date. Anyone interested in completing a questionnaire can contact Paparich at firstname.lastname@example.org or download one at http://cleancolumbia.org/documents/health_questionnaire_northport_fy2.pdf.
It can also be accessed from the website http://www.northportproject.com. At the website click on the Community Health Survey tab and then on the link in the first paragraph.
Paparich can also be contact by mail at:
Jamie Paparich, 5013 Snowy Mtn Drive, Winnemucca, NV 89445 or by cell phone at: 775-750-6384.
Protecting the Community
As stated above, the main goal of the Northport Project is to provide free health services and information to residents to protect the health of the community.
This knowledge will help citizens recognize early symptoms of disease, educate citizens on ways of dealing with health issues, and give people access to a community wellness program.
A future article will detail how this is to be implemented.
The plan can also be viewed on the website at http://www.northportproject.com by clicking on the Community Protection and Awareness Program tab.