Summary of Ecology’s Northport Air Quality Studies, Phases I – IV, (1992-1998)
Screening Acronyms used by Ecology and EPA in testing certain heavy metal toxins:
- Acceptable Source Impact Level (ASIL): Toxins must be found at or below the ASIL set by the EPA based on Standard ambient air background levels throughout the State.
- Risk Based Specific Concentration Level (RSC): Toxins found at or above the RSC set by the EPA are considered high enough to pose as a risk to the environment and human health.
ARSENIC SAFETY/RISK LEVELS SET BY EPA:
- The ASIL: .00023 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3)
- The RSC: 0.0023 ug/m3
CADMIUM SAFETY/RISK LEVELS SET BY EPA:
- The ASIL: .00056 ug/m3
- The RSC: 0.1164 ug/m3
PHASE I: Dec. 15, 1992 – Feb. 13, 1993
• Five air monitors installed
• 100 samples of particulate matter (PM) collected and analyzed for lead, arsenic, and particulate matter.
PHASE II: Aug. 10, 1993 – Oct. 30, 1993
• Seven air monitors installed
• The particulate filters were scanned for 30 toxic metals, cadmium, zinc, antimony, lead, copper, arsenic, and manganese.
• Computer Modeling conducted to better “understand the probable sources of pollutants…”
RESULTS: Phase I & Phase II
Arsenic exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in both phases.
- Phase I – maximum arsenic level detected: .25 ug/m3
- Phase II – maximum arsenic level detected: 0.1164 ug/m3
CADMIUM (*Cadmium was only tested in the Phase II air monitoring.)
Cadmium exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in phase II.
- Phase II – maximum cadmium level detected: .0474 ug/m3
The results of the computer modeling done in Phase II confirmed “…the monitoring data results in predicting that winds and pollutants from the (Teck) smelter can easily travel down the Columbia River Valley to produce moderately high pollutant concentrations in the study area.”
PHASE III: Nov. 3, 1993 – Aug. 6, 1994
• One monitoring site – located 3 miles NE of Northport on “Paparich”
• Metals evaluated – lead, arsenic, cadmium
RESULTS: Phase III
Arsenic exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in phase III
- Phase III: Arsenic maximum yearly average: .12 ug/m3
Cadmium exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in phase III
- Phase III: Cadmium maximum yearly average: .04 ug/m3
PHASE IV: Sept. 5, 1997 – Dec. 31, 1998
• Three monitoring sites in Northport
• Metals evaluated – arsenic, lead, cadmium, zinc
RESULTS: Phase IV
Arsenic exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in phase IV
- Phase IV: Arsenic maximum yearly average: .02 ug/m3
Cadmium exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC Levels in phase IV
- Phase IV: Cadmium maximum yearly average: .01 ug/m3
In conclusion; of the four Air Monitoring Studies conducted by Ecology between 1992 thru 1998 the level of arsenic and cadmium consistently exceeded all safety levels. Ecology agreed to approve Teck’s request for a new permit in 1996 for a new “KIVCET” smelter, with the condition that phase IV of the air monitoring proved the new Kivcet smelter reduced the levels of arsenic and cadmium to safe levels in and around Northport. The results of phase IV proved only that the levels stayed the same, still unsafe. Ecology approved the permit anyway, but concluded in phase IV that they would “continue its efforts to fine- tune the MM5, CALMET and CALPUFF air quality models for utilization in the Northport study area. …(I)n addition to evaluating the need for further emission reductions at the (Teck) facility, the above models will be used to determine pollutant impact “hot spots” and optimum long-term air quality monitoring site locations (in Northport).”
No air monitoring has taken place in Northport since the conclusion of phase IV in 1998. For 18 years the community of Northport has been exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic and cadmium, levels the Department of Ecology knew about, and warned the EPA about…..but no one warned the residents of Northport.
The EPA is currently, and so far unsuccessfully, trying to obtain funding from Teck to install air monitors in and around Northport. The Ministry of Environment in Canada recently fined Teck 3.4 million dollars for their spills into the Columbia River. Perhaps, the Canadian Ministry could provide the funding for the air monitors needed 3 miles down river from Teck? Doubtful.
How can you help get air monitors in Northport? I will share how in part 3 of the air monitoring blog next week!