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.