Archive for the ‘Columbia River’ Category

Teck spill adds to long history of polluting upper Columbia

Tribal Tribune   April 21, 2016

Press Release | Updated Yesterday

NESPELEM—This week Teck Cominco’s failure to manage its operations has once again sent toxic pollution into the Columbia River. It is another tragic assault by Teck on the region’s natural resources. Teck’s disregard for the land, air and water it impacts must be stopped. Our Tribes have taken action to force Teck to step up to its responsibility and the spill this week unfortunately highlights Teck’s ongoing failure to stop polluting and start cleaning up decades of waste in the U.S.

The river is the natural resource and cultural lifeblood of the Colville Tribes and must be protected and restored.

For nearly a century, Teck pumped slag, a toxic byproduct of metals refining, directly into the Columbia River. More than 10 million tons of the granular slag created the “black sand” beaches of the Upper Columbia, a 150-mile reach of the river between the Canadian border and Grand Coulee Dam.

Regulatory and legal processes will continue to guide the cleanup, but there can be no more delay in action. Several efforts to reintroduce migrating fish in the Upper Columbia are moving forward. It is critical that the sediments in the Upper Columbia be cleaned up to ensure those runs have a healthy food chain on which to thrive. Only cleanup will create that opportunity.

—Tribal Press Release

To read original article go to:  http://m.tribaltribune.com/news/article_38ffdca4-07e8-11e6-80af-d3d4f1dd7c41.html?mode=jqm

TECK SPILL ALERT: Toxins from Teck’s Landfill/Arsenic Storage Area spilled into Columbia River ~ April, 2016 ~

 

April 13, 2016

 

SPILL ALERT:  Teck Smelter, Trail B.C.

Due to a failure of a sump pump at Teck Smelter in B.C.,  leachate from an old landfill and arsenic storage area has been released into Stony Creek, which discharges into the Columbia River. The specific toxins and the amounts released is not yet known at this time.     

Response and Monitoring – in progress.

Matt Schanz, with the Environmental Public Health Director for Northeast Tri-County Health District, will be in contact with Board Members of the Citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC), and the CCC will keep the Northport Community updated on more information as it becomes available.

Thank you to Mindy Smith, from the CCC, in making the Northport Community  aware of the most current, and possibly dangerous release by Teck Metals.

Click here for updated news report.

EPA ANSWERS NORTHPORT QUESTIONS: Property Values, Livestock, Air & Water Quality

Recently I received questions from a concerned Northport resident regarding land value, livestock permits, economic value, and air and water quality;  in reference to the EPA/Teck Upper Columbia Studies and Clean-up.

I forwarded those questions along to our EPA Project Manager, Laura Buelow. Laura, Kay Morrison, (Community Involvement Coordinator), and Marc Stifelman, (EPA Toxicologist), responded to these questions. I found both the questions and answers informative and wanted to share them for any other interested Northport residents.

Below are the questions submitted from the Northport resident, and the EPA’s answers.

 

LAND VALUE
Q:   How does this affect the value of the land for taxes, finance, appraisals, selling?

A:   The Steven’s County assessor is a good place to start, also check with your realtor or John Cochran. John is our contact on the Washington Realtor’s Association (http://www.warealtor.org/ )

Q:   Are people having problems selling land due to the contamination?

A:   We have heard that property is being sold, but don’t have any details past that.

Q:   Is there a land conservation group willing to purchase the land at fair market value?

A:   Kay did a search on the term “land conservation groups in Washington state” and found a lot of information that residents may want to look into. We don’t currently have a relationship with any land conservation group. Here are a few of the links residents might try, as well as this google search:

https://www.google.com/#q=land%20conservation%20groups%20in%20washington%20state

http://www.landscope.org/washington/programs/wa_programs/

http://iwjv.org/partner-state/washington-state-conservation-partnership

Q:   How can you sell the land if there is contamination – are we liable for the contamination for the next owner?  Who pays for the testing?  Who is responsible for the clean up now and in the future?

A:   EPA will not hold residents liable for this contamination. Washington has disclosure requirements that can be found on the state’s website:
REAL PROPERTY TRANSFERS — SELLERS’ DISCLOSURES
The testing is being paid for by Teck American, Inc as part of the remedial investigation/feasibility study. The testing in 2016 will be conducted by Teck and their contractor, with oversight by EPA. The soil clean ups that were performed in 2014 were paid for by Teck and conducted by Teck’s contractors with oversight by EPA. If additional soil clean ups are necessary, the landowner will not be responsible for the cost.

Q:   Future clean up – how many years for re-testing? Who pays for the testing and clean up in the future?

A:   We’ll determine if, and where, additional areas need to be sampled based on the 2016 study. We can’t guarantee that we’ll do another round of testing, and we don’t have additional residential soil sampling scheduled out past 2016.

Q:   Is the ground becoming contaminated via air – water?

A:   EPA believes the data shows that the soil became contaminated from historic smelting operations at the Trail smelter, specifically the metals coming out of the smelter stacks (air). The smelter has been in operation since the 1890s. In the 1990s, the smelter went through a major improvement and the air emissions significantly decreased. We have received requests from the community to perform air monitoring and we are looking into the existing data to determine if additional air monitoring is necessary for the remedial investigation/feasibility study. Our focus right now is getting residential properties sampled.

ECONOMIC

Information: These are good questions for the Washington State University extension office for Stevens County – their website is http://ext100.wsu.edu/stevens/
 
From the web site:
“Washington State University Stevens County Extension connects the people of Stevens county to the research and knowledge bases of the state’s land grand research university providing solutions to local problems and stimulating local economies.  Our county-based educators work with partners in your communities to provide educational programs and leverage the broad resources of a major university to resolve issues and create a positive future for the residents of Stevens county.”

Q:   Can we produce and sell food/livestock raised on contaminated field?  I read that we have to get a special permit for that?

A:   Individual soil sampling results would need to be discussed specifically with Laura Buelow, EPA Project Manager (buelow.laura@epa.gov).

Q:   If so, does the produce/livestock have to be tested?

        A:   See above

AIR & WATER QUALITY
Q:   How often is either tested?  How do we get theses tested?

A:   Air was last tested in the U.S. by Ecology in the 1990s. Teck monitors air in Trail and we are working to get as much of that data as possible. Several studies have been completed under the remedial investigation/feasibility study. We have sampled river water, beaches, fish, sediment, and soil. The results of each study are compiled as Data Summary Reports and listed at this website: http://www.ucr-rifs.com/ The website is run by Teck specifically for this study and has more background information. EPA’s most recent fact sheet that gives a summary of everything done to date is here: https://www3.epa.gov/region10/pdf/sites/ucr/fact_sheets/UCR_Site_Invest_SU_Nov_14.pdf

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Q:   How can the community develop future economic bases?  How can we draw companies here?

A:   This is outside the scope of our work at this stage of the study. There is an organization called the Tri-County Economic Development District (http://tricountyedd.com/ ) that serves Northeast Washington – Ferry, Pend Oreille, and Stevens Counties.

Q:   What studies are being done on the wildlife and vegetation and the affects of the pollution has on them?  Forest health?

A:   The ecological risk assessment is part of the RI/FS and it will determine if there is any issues with the plants and animals.

Q:   There seems to be a lot of studies done at universities – are any doing studies here?

A:   Contact Jamie Paparich at The Northport Project: northportproject@hotmail.com

Q:   How many groups are involved with this?  Coordination?  Meeting Schedules?  Funding?  Accountability?

A:   EPA and Teck signed a Settlement Agreement in 2006, which is a legal contract that sets out how the study will be conducted. Teck funds all of the work. EPA also has an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington Department of Ecology, the Colville Tribe, and the Spokane Tribe to participate and provide input on all of the sampling plans and documents. Teck funds these parties as well. There is also the Citizen’s for a Clean Columbia (the CCC). They have a technical advisor and Teck funds the time for the advisor. EPA has had community meetings in Northport approximately every 6-8 months for the last 3 years, mostly focused on the soil sampling.

Here is a link to EPA’s page with legal / enforcement documents, including the 2006 agreement:  https://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/CLEANUP.NSF/UCR/Enforcement

Q:   Is there a early warning system in place that goes out to the residents when pollutants are released in the river?  Like a reverse 911.

A:   Ecology receives the notice of spills from the Trail smelter.

Q:   How come the fines Teck pays to Canada for environmental discharges are not distributed to the US?

A:   I’m not sure what these fines would be. Teck is paying to all of the remedial investigation/feasibility study.

 

Decision in Teck pollution case will be later this year

Judge to weigh Teck pollution case

Decision on Colvilles’ suit will be later this year

Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press

October 11, 2012

A federal judge in Yakima will decide whether a Canadian mining company must pay to clean up pollution that for decades crossed the border into Lake Roosevelt in Washington.

U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko heard motions on the lawsuit Wednesday and said he will issue a decision later this year.

The long-running lawsuit was filed by the Colville Tribes against Teck Metals Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C. The company operates a huge smelter at Trail, B.C., that for nearly a century dumped mining slag into the Columbia River.

Heavy metals pollution traveled down the river into the United States at Lake Roosevelt, which is the 150-mile-long reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam.

One major issue is whether a Canadian company is subject to U.S. environmental law.

John Sirois, chairman of the Colville Tribes, said U.S. law should prevail.

“Where does the pollution end up? That’s where the jurisdiction should end up,” Sirois said after the hearing.

Last month, on the eve of trial, Teck Metals reached a settlement in the case in which it admitted that some portion of the mining pollution in the reservoir came from its smelter. The settlement eliminated the need for a trial scheduled for September, but numerous jurisdictional and other legal issues remain.

Teck is one of Canada’s largest mining companies, and its lead-zinc smelter 10 miles north of the U.S. border is among the largest of its kind in the world. State and federal authorities contend the company and its predecessors discharged mining slag into the river from 1896 to 1995.

That slag then flowed into Washington, causing significant heavy metal contamination in Lake Roosevelt.

A decade ago, the Colville Tribes petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess contamination in the reservoir. In 2003, the EPA decided that Teck was subject to the U.S. Superfund law. The agency demanded the company pay for studies to determine the extent of the contamination and then clean it up.

The tribes filed suit in 2004 to force Teck to comply with that order, and the state joined the lawsuit as an intervener.

In 2009, a federal judge ordered Teck to reimburse the Colvilles for more than $1 million the tribes had spent on the case over five years.

The company in 2006 reached a deal with the EPA to study the extent of the pollution in Lake Roosevelt. That study is expected to be finished in 2015. Teck contends the extent and cost of cleanup cannot be determined until that study is finished.

Teck contends that study results so far have shown that water in the lake meets Canadian and U.S. quality standards, that beaches are safe for recreational use and that fish in the river system are safe to eat.

© Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Wall Street Journal article on Northport!

The Wall Street JournalThe Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal

New Twist in Pollution Case

Canadian Smelter’s Legal Maneuver Frustrates Residents Along Northwest Border

September 11, 2012, 9:42 p.m. ET

By JOEL MILLMAN

NORTHPORT, Wash.—Ranching families and American Indian tribes along the Columbia River here have long accused a refinery across the river in Canada of poisoning their land.

In a surprise move, the plant’s owner, Canadian refining giant Teck Resources Ltd., said late Monday that its Teck Metals unit would no longer contest that it is responsible for discharging contaminants into the U.S. in a federal trial that had been set to begin next week. Instead, Teck agreed to proceed to phase two of the trial in October, which will culminate in a judge’s eventual ruling on any liability for pollution damages and cleanup costs. Teck continues to say it isn’t responsible for extensive pollution of the river.

Turmoil in Northport

[SB10000872396390443884104577645731587542126]

Matt Mills McKnight for The Wall Street Journal

Ranching families, especially Kay Papariches and her family and their neighbors along Mitchell Road, which hugs a bend in the Columbia River, report diagnoses of cancers and multiple sclerosis that they believe came from swimming in the Columbia, and from using river water for fields and cattle.

The company’s legal maneuver represents a mixed blessing for residents of this tiny border community on the U.S. side.

Washington state and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation had filed suit in federal court against Teck, whose sprawling Trail, British Columbia, smelter began operating on the Columbia River in 1896. The trial was set to begin Sept. 17 as the initial step in establishing any clean-up costs, and residents had hoped the trial would soon clarify the extent of any damages.

While the company may eventually pay damages, any dollar amount won’t be set until at least 2015, meaning it will be three years or more before residents here know the extent of any damages.

Some people here had been looking forward to seeing Teck’s alleged discharging of waste from its Canada plant examined in court, and hoped evidence in the trial would bolster their own efforts to hold the company accountable for illnesses they say have plagued families here for decades.

“I hope it can at least get it stopped for future generations,” said Barbara Anderson, an artist who has lived here since 1975. Mrs. Anderson, 59 years old, believes her teenage daughter’s ulcerative colitis was caused directly by smelter heavy metals. They are not currently suing the company.

In the past century, some residents complained about damage to crops from Teck’s operations, which occasionally led to small settlements. In 1941, the Trail smelter was cited in an International Joint Commission arbitration ruling that no country can permit air pollution that harms the citizens or property in another country, said Rachael Paschal Osborn, staff attorney for the Center for Environmental Law & Policy in Spokane, Wash.

In this town of barely 350 residents, locals have long complained of higher-than-normal rates of certain maladies. Ranching families, especially on Mitchell Road, which runs along a bend in the Columbia River, report diagnoses of cancers and multiple sclerosis that they believe came from swimming in the Columbia, and from using river water for fields and cattle.

A recent Harvard Medical School study determined that Northport has 10 to 15 times the normal rates of certain inflammatory bowel maladies such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. “It seems like a provocative cluster,” said Joshua Korzenik, an author of the study, who now is seeking funding for a full epidemiological survey of the town’sresidents to attempt to confirm if there is a link to any pollution.

image

Washington state health officials say the connection isn’t conclusive.

Teck officials say the disease clusters could be related to family genetics and factors other than pollution from its plant.

Teck’s most recent court case began in 2004, when the Confederated Tribes of Colville brought suit in U.S. court in Yakima, Wash. Their goal: to force Teck to comply with Superfund rules.

At first, the Canadian company argued that the U.S. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, known as the Superfund law, lacked jurisdiction over a foreign company.

But with the trial set to begin next week, the Canadian company switched gears. In its statement Monday, Teck said it would now stipulate that “some portion” of the slag discharged from Trail into the Columbia River between 1896 and 1995, along with “some portion of the effluent” discharged, “are present in the Upper Columbia River,” and that “some hazardous substances” had been released into the U.S.

The 1.4 million-acre Colville reservation hugs one bank of the Columbia River north of the Grand Coulee Dam. For years, tribal members complained pollutants from Teck’s Canadian operation remained in sediment under Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir of Columbia River water that lies behind the dam.

John Sirois, chairman of the Confederated Colville tribes, points to a spot of black sand beach known to locals as “Dead Man’s eddy” where the tribe warns against fishing or swimming. Mr. Sirois said his reservation had spent over $2 million in legal fees, just to get to Teck to court. “Certainly, this is a win,” he said. “But we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of damages and what cleanup costs could be.”

Monday’s news angered some residents. “Teck was afraid of the outcome of the Yakima trial. They feared if they were held liable it would have opened them up to an onslaught of civil lawsuits,” said Jamie Paparich, who grew up on Mitchell Road and now leads a coalition of former and current Northport citizens fighting for a cleanup of the river.

Write to Joel Millman at joel.millman@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared September 12, 2012, on page A6 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: New Twist in Pollution Case.

*Click the “See Slideshow” at:  http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10000872396390443696604577645804284821604-lMyQjAxMTAyMDEwMjAxODI3Wj.html?mod=wsj_valettop_email

for great photos of Northport and the community!!

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Teck admits polluting, but still planning an escape route….

Teck admits polluting Columbia River in U.S.

 

But company doesn’t concede dumped waste caused harm

 
By Gordon Hoekstra, Vancouver Sun; With files from Canadian PressSeptember 11, 2012
 
 

Teck Resources has admitted that mining waste and effluent from its Trail smelter polluted the Columbia River across the U.S.-Canada border in Washington State for 100 years.

Its subsidiary, Teck Metals Ltd., agreed to these facts as part of a civil lawsuit with U.S. plaintiffs, which include American first nations and the State of Washington, over damages from the pollution that was discharged from 1896 to 1995.

The Teck Metals agreement released Monday acknowledges some portion of the effluent and slag from its Trail operations in southeastern B.C. were transported and present in the Upper Columbia River in the U.S., and that some hazardous substances were released into the environment in the U.S.

The company said this is expected to allow the court to find that Teck is potentially liable for damages.

However, Teck says the statement of facts doesn’t concede the pollution caused any harm.

“We haven’t agreed to the amount of injury that’s potentially the result of that (pollution release) – certainly not the risk to human health and the environment,” said Dave Godlewski, vice-president of environment and public affairs for U.S. subsidiary Teck American.

That’s being determined by ongoing studies that could be complete by 2015. Teck reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2006 to fund $20 million in environmental impact studies.

Results of a 2001 preliminary EPA study showed that contamination was present in sediment above the Grand Coulee Dam.

The initial studies were sparked by complaints in 1999 from the Colville Confederated Tribes in the U.S.

The tribes later launched the civil lawsuit, claiming 145,000 tonnes has been dumped directly into the river. The State of Washing-ton joined in 2004.

A state official called the Teck admission it had polluted the Columbia River on the U.S. side significant.

“They are saying they agree now after many years of denying that,” said Jani Gilbert, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Ecology.

The admission also simplifies and shortens the first phase of the trial, she said.

However, Gilbert noted Teck will try to argue in a hearing scheduled for Oct. 10 in U.S. District Court in eastern Washington that the U.S. does not have jurisdiction over Teck’s Trail operation because it’s in Canada. In an earlier decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision by a lower court the case could go for-ward even though Teck’s operation was in Canada.

Teck tried to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high court declined to hear it.

Austen Parrish, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles who has followed the case, said the vast majority of the main issues in the case still remain. “Teck has a number of defences to liability, including its jurisdictional issues,” Parrish noted.

The completion of the remedial studies will dictate what cleanup might be required, he said.

Costs of a cleanup on the Columbia River have been estimated as high as $1 billion, but Teck said based on its own studies it estimates the “compensable value of any damage will not be material.”

The pollution discharge – which included zinc, copper, lead and traces of elements such as arsenic – ended in 1995 after Teck upgraded the Trail operation.

Godlewski says studies show that Columbia River water is safe to swim in, fish can be eaten and beaches are safe to play on.

“The river’s water is as clean as can be. We meet every single water quality standard in existence,” he said.

More studies will examine the effects on bugs that live in or on the sediment, and on nearby soils.

Teck Resources’ admission that it polluted the Columbia River had little effect on the company’s share price. Its shares on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges dropped about one per cent on Mon-day, giving the company a market capitalization of about $17 billion.

ghoekstra@vancouversun.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
 
 

Northport study shows elevated rate of disease

Vancouver Sun mobile

Study shows elevated rate of bowel disease in Washington town downstream of B.C.’s Trail smelter

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

By Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun
The zinc, lead and silver smelter of Vancouver-based diversified miner, Teck Cominco Ltd., the world's largest zinc producer, Wednesday, August 2, 2006, in Trail, British Columbia, Canada.

Teck Resources (smelter), Trail B.C.
Photographed by: UDO WEITZ, Vancouver Sun

Jamie Paparich’s father and aunt grew up on the family farm on Mitchell Road in Northport, Wash., just downstream of the giant lead-zinc smelter north of the international border in Trail.

Whatever pollutants came out of that smelter, they lived in them, be they in the air or in the Columbia River.

“It’s where the river starts to slow down and creates pools and swimming holes,” she said of the farm’s location. “All these kids swam in it, we irrigated with it, for decades.”

Paparich’s aunt, Rose Kalamarides, now a 56-year-old resident of Alaska, was in her 20s when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Her father (Rose’s older brother), Jim, now living in Nevada, also developed the disease.

And they were by no means isolated cases in Northport, a community of about 300 with a disproportionately high rate of bowel disease.

Four years ago, Paparich got serious about looking into the issue, sending out health questionnaires to current and former residents and trying to generate interest within the medical community in conducting further research.

“I started putting points together; it was a mess,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Her efforts attracted the attention of medical researchers in Massachusetts, who conducted a health survey starting in early 2011.

Paparich said she never doubted that the results would support her own instincts. “It was obvious, but they confirmed it,” she said.

Spokane’s newspaper, the Spokesman-Review, reported this week that 119 current and former Northport residents took part in the survey, 17 of whom had confirmed cases of either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

That’s about 10 to 15 times what researchers would have expected in a population of that size, the paper reported.

Researchers ruled out a genetic influence in the town’s cluster, since most of the individuals were not related.

The plan now is to expand the health survey to gather information from other communities near Northport and look into whether the smelter’s emissions played a role in the disease rates.

Marcia Smith, senior vice-president of sustainability and external affairs for Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd., which took over the Trail smelter from Cominco a decade ago, said she had not seen the latest survey results.

But she said that past studies in Washington state and B.C. have failed to confirm a link between inflammatory bowel disease and the Trail smelter’s operations.

Smith noted that Teck, in agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is in the process of conducting a study looking into potential human and environmental health issues in the upper Columbia River, including the Northport area, associated with the smelter’s historic operations. The study will also determine what actions are required to mitigate any unacceptable risks.

“Since the mid-1990s we have reduced emissions of metals to air and water by more than 95 per cent,” Smith stressed.

Paparich, who lives in Winnemucca, Nev., and works as a business assistant for Newmont Mining, agreed that “massive improvements” have been made to the smelter, but maintained that bowel disease continues to be diagnosed and demands continued study.

She added she feels that federal and state officials over the years have let Northport residents down by failing to aggressively looking at health issues or tackle the issue of upstream cross-border pollution.

At this stage, she says, no one is interested in financial compensation, only getting more research into the issue.

“These people don’t want anything,” she said. “They just want a chance to let the doctors and scientists study their issues…. They really want to just help people.”

lpynn@vancouversun.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

 

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