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.