Archive for the ‘Northport Teck Lawsuit’ Category

Teck Smelter – Timeline of Pollution

A CENTURY OF EVIDENCE

Teck is one of the world’s largest lead and zinc smelters, located in Trail, B.C. Canada. This timeline of Teck Smelter’s pollution and accidental spills was created using data from their records and documentation of events, as well as data from The Canadian B.C. Environment Ministry and the United State’s Environmental Protection Agency.  

The below timeline does not include many of the accidental detailed air emission releases.   These emissions continues to exceed U.S. Safety Standards.  To read more about the air emissions click on the air monitoring tab across the top of the home page.

  • 1906 –   Production begins at the Trail Smelter (now Teck) in Trail, B.C. Canada.
  • 1916 –    Trail’s releasing  a monthly output of 4,700 tonnes of sulphur dioxide through air emissions.
  • 1920 –    Due to World War I the smelter’s output drastically accelerated, increasing output of sulphur dioxide to 10,000 tonnes a month.
  • 1921-2005 –  Trail’s estimate of total annual air emissions (containing zinc, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury) was 600,000 tonnes.
  • 1931 –    Trail’s fuming furnace processed 150,000 tonnes of blast furnace slag.  (Slag is the by-product of the smelting process and is a sand like material that contains heavy metal toxins.)
    • Trail’s operations expanded to include the manufacturing of ammonium sulfate and ammonium phosphate fertilizer.
  • 1933 –  Farmers from Northport sue the Trail Smelter for damages the smelter’s air pollution (sulfur dioxide) caused to their stock and crops.
  • 1940 –  Teck Cominco (formerly Trail Smelter) is admittedly dumping up to 1000 tonnes of heavy metal toxins (slag) into the river daily, including 3.6 tonnes of mercury a year.

**  The explanation given to us regarding the gap of missing information/documentation from 1940 to 1980 was an inability to locate the 40 years of documentation, possibly due to a warehouse fire.

  • 1980 to 1996 –  Records show the average amount of slag Teck dumps from mid 1980’s through 1996 is 450 tonnes a day
  • 1980 –   Accidental releases into Air/River:  15 tonnes of sulfuric acid released from smoke stack, 7 tonnes of mercury released into the Columbia River (River), 500 gallons of ammonia hydrosulfide, 30 tonnes of sulfuric acid, 24 tonnes of sulfuric acid released into the River.
  • 1981 – Accidental releases in the River:  9.5 tonnes of zinc, 9.5 tonnes of sulfuric acid, 4000 gallons ammonia hydrosulfide, 93 tonnes of sulfuric acid.  
    • A memo, from Canada’s B.C. Environment Ministry, estimates Teck has been dumping up to 20 pounds of mercury a day into the river for an unknown amount of years.
  • 1982 – Accidental releases in the River:  6,330 pounds of mercury.
    • Teck does not report the massive spill to Canadian Authorities for 5 weeks. Once the Canadian Ministry notifies the United States authorities no action is taken, neither to warn residents in communities or tribes along the river, or an environmental investigation. The Canadian Ministry files a lawsuit against Teck. The smelter eventually pleads guilty and pays a $5000 fine to Canada’s B.C. Environment Ministry.
  • 1983 – 1986No recorded spills 
  • 1987  Accidental releases in the River: 15 tonnes of sulfuric acid.

  • 1988   Accidental releases in the River: 5 tonnes of zinc.

  • 1989 – Accidental releases in the River:  Amount “unknown” of Arsenic (July 17th), amount “unknown” of gypsum & phosphuric acid, (July 16th), neutral thickener – 60,000 liters, “yellow substance” – 305 meters long. 

  • 1990 – Accidental releases in the River: 31 gallons of mercury “unknown” amount of zinc (Sept. 4th), 300-400 gallons of sulfuric acid.  (Teck’s spill of 300-400 gallons of concentrated sulfuric acid is not reported until 14 hours after time of spill because, according to the B.C. Environment Incident Report, the plant’s alarm did not sound.)

  • 1991 – Accidental releases in the River: .16 mg/l of cadmium, .08 mg/l mercury, 289 mg/l of lead, 29.8 mg/l of zinc, 4.55 tonnes of sulfuric acid, 9.4 tonnes of phosphoric acid, 6.7 tonnes of phosphates, 50 tonnes of partially “treated” slag, and 50 tonnes of furnace oil.
    • Teck violates their waste management permit with a spill of zinc and cadmium. They plead guilty and agree to pay $40,000 towards a Canadian river study. Teck’s toxins impact only approximately 3 miles of the Columbia River before crossing into the United States.  However, the $40,000 study stopped at the Canadian border.
  • 1992 –  Accidental releases in the River:  132,000,000 mg/l of mercury, 214,000,000 mg/l of zinc, 476 gallons of sulfuric acid, 1.5 tonnes of phosphoric acid, 75 gallons of ammonium bisulphite.
    • Teck records indicate, on average, dumping 200 tonnes of sulfuric acid a day into the river. Their Canadian discharge permits allow this, the United States has access to these documents and the right to issue a stop, the United States never requests to see any documents.
  • 1993 –  Accidental releases in the River:  “unknown” amount of arsenic, “unkonwn” amount of cadmium, 25,000,000 mg/l of mercury, 600,000,000 mg/l of zinc, 13,000 tonnes of sulfuric acid.
    • Teck also reports an accidental spill of a large amount of sediment containing arsenic and cadmium.
    • A memo from Canadian regulators to Teck says a better river monitoring system needs to be installed.
    • Richard Dalosse, the Regional Environment Manager, also sends an internal memo to his supervisors. In it he says; “If we fail to ensure accurate monitoring of this discharge, it is possible that we could be held civilly or criminally liable.”
  • 1994 – Accidental releases in the River: .22 tonnes and “unknown” amount of arsenic, .21 tonnes of cadmium, 2,000,000 mg/l of mercury (16 exceedences for the year), 1.50 mg/l of lead, “unknown” amount of zinc, 3.5 billion mg/l of ammonia.
    • A Canadian river study, conducted under the “Columbia River Integrated Environmental Monitoring Program”, is published. It states that a significant amount of heavy metal toxins were found in river sediments south of Trail (Waneta & Northport, Washington.
  • 1995 – Accidental releases in the River 12,500,000 mg/l of arsenic, 186,000,000 mg/l of cadmium, 8,190,000 mg/l of mercury, 63,800,000 mg/l of lead, 2.5 tonnes of zinc, 1000 gallons of sulfuric acid.  (The accidental spill of 1000 gallons of sulfuric acid is reported by the smelter. Per their records the accident was attributed to “lack of attention” on part of a worker.)
    • An internal BC Ministry memo states that the ongoing mercury spills by the smelter “…..are of serious concern due to the persistence & bio accumulative nature (of mercury)”
  • 1996 – Accidental releases in the River:  640,000,000 mg/l of arsenic, 4,760,000 mg/l of cadmium, 30,000 mg/l of mercury, 30,000 mg/l of lead, 2.3 tonnes of zinc, 75 tonnes of slag.
    • Teck records show an average daily ALLOWED discharge of: 40 pounds of lead, 135 pounds of cadmium, 9 pounds of mercury and more than 16,000 pounds of zinc.
    • Teck halts the practice of dumping slag into the river, (not including the 75 tonnes spilled accidentally that year). Teck begins storing the slag, later selling it to the concrete industry.
  • 1997 – Accidental releases in the River3 tonnes of cadmium, 3 tonnes of mercury, 1.4 tonnes of lead, 500,000,000 mg/l of zinc.
    • The Colville Confederate Tribe completes a study regarding the impact of Teck’s century of discharging heavy metal toxins may have had on their environment and human health.
    • The reports concludes that between 1994-1997 Teck’s discharges of arsenic, cadmium and lead equal more than the discharges of ALL the lead and zinc smelters combined through-out the United States.
  • 1998 – Accidental releases in the River:  73,360,000 mg/l of arsenic, 26,000,000 mg/l of cadmium, 177,000,000 mg/l of zinc, 3.4 tonnes of slag.  (Although Teck claims no slag has been released into the river since 1996.)
  • 1999 – Accidental releases in the River:  29.04 mg/l of cadmium, 271,000,000 mg/l of zinc, “unknown” amount of contaminated water.
  • 2000 – Accidental releases in the River:  14,200,000 mg/l of cadmium, 350,000,000 mg/l of zinc.
  • 2001 –  Accidental releases in the River:  1,923 pounds of mercury, 529,700,000 mg/l of zinc.

**  Teck’s records show 86 accidental spills between 1987-2001, the spills listed above are the only ones that documentation could be found on.

  • 2004–  Records, released by the Canadian B.C. Ministry, estimate that Teck has been dumping approximately 1.6 tonnes – 3.6 tonnes of mercury annually into the river since 1940.
  • 2008 –  Teck records a spill of 2,068 pounds of lead and 420 quarts of acid
  • 2010 –  Teck spills approx. 15,000,000 mg/l of mercury into the river when there is a leak while employees are working on pipes at the facility.
  • 2014 –  Teck reports a spill of 12,000 and 25,000 liters of a sodium hydroxide solution

Between 1921 – 2005  Teck released;  38,465 tonnes of Zinc,  22,688 tonnes of Lead,  1,225 tonnes of Arsenic,  1,103 tonnes of Cadmium, and  97 tonnes of Mercury through their air emissions.

Between 1906 – 1995  Teck released;  1,314,00 tonnes of Lead,  4,434,750 tonnes of Cadmium, 302,250 tonnes of Mercury, and 525,600,000 tonnes of Zinc from the slag dumped into the Columbia River.

“The estimated 9.8 million tons (of slag) that Cominco has dumped into the river is equivalent to a dump truck emptying 19 tons every hour for 60 years.”  

– Karen Dorn Steel,  The Spokesman Review (2003)

The accidental spills the smelter has had over the years were eventually reported to the US Agencies by the Canadian B.C. Environment Ministry.  However in every reported case neither the Canadian Ministry, nor the United States Health Department (DOH), or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informed any of the communities, located just a few miles down river.

Under their own guidelines this is a criminal act of negligence.

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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

AIR MONITORING IN NORTHPORT: PART III *LETTER PETITION- For Air Monitoring in Northport*

AIR MONITORING IN NORTHPORT:  PART III

**See letter to copy/sign/paste/send to EPA contact requesting air monitoring at end of article***

So, it was established in the air monitoring conducted by Ecology from 1992-1998 that the levels of arsenic and cadmium in Northport’s air was much higher than safety standards, and risk based concentrations.  The levels of Arsenic were actually 200 times higher than those found at the worst smelter Superfund site in the world, Tacoma Smelter. 

EPA and Ecology have been unable to further monitor Northport’s air because of lack of funding, and honestly we fall pretty low on their priority list.  They are currently trying to get Teck to fund air monitoring in the area as part of the Superfund clean-up agreement.  However, Teck believes they are not responsible for their air emissions.  They are currently appealing this in WA State’s 9th District Court.  They claim that CERCLA laws do not specify air as a form of polluting, only that polluters can dispose of toxins by land or water.  So much for making amends for their past actions!  Obviously Teck is not stepping up to monitor the air in Northport anytime soon. 

What the EPA and Teck did not share with the public is that Teck did continued to monitor Northport air, with one monitor, between 1994-2006. 

Tucked away in appendix G of Teck’s Upper Columbia River remedial investigation/feasibility study, volume 2, is the results of this air monitoring.  Arsenic and Cadmium continue to be way above safety standards and risk based concentrations.  The EPA was not even aware this data existed, or that they had access to it, until I asked them about it. 

To help EPA obtain the funding for air monitors in Northport a demand must be shown.  If each past and present Northport resident, and residents of surrounding communities, copy, paste, and sign the below letter and send it to our EPA project manager, Laura Buelow at buelow.laura@epa.gov, our chances increase ten fold.

Please, take five minutes to do this.  Those five minutes can help protect generations of Northport residents to come.

LETTER (COPY, PASTE, SIGN, SEND TO:  buelow.laura@epa.gov):

Ms. Beulow:

I am writing to ask EPA to consider an air monitoring study. I believe that the results of the residential soil study clearly show that a formal air monitoring study should be performed in the study area. Aerial deposition of contaminants did occur in the study area and it needs to be determined if this contamination is ongoing.

An air monitoring study should be performed for a minimum of 18 months at four high level lead contamination sites and at one low level lead contamination control site, and one near the river on Mitchell Road, on property in the heavy fall out zone.

Some or all of these sites may need to be monitored over a longer period, depending on the results of the 18-month study.

I also believe that neighbors of property owners who are being offered time critical removal actions be given the opportunity to have their property sampled if it wasn’t sampled in 2014. They should also be offered time critical removal action on their property if results show a need.

Sincerely,

WA Judges Skeptical that Superfund Includes Teck Smelter’s Airborne Waste- SERIOUSLY

From Toxics Law Reporter

By Steven M. Sellers

April 6 — A Ninth Circuit panel appeared disinclined to find that the Superfund law includes contaminants that traveled by air from a Canadian smelter onto a contaminated U.S. site.

The seemingly skeptical three-judge panel considered sharply contrasting oral arguments on how far the U.S. hazardous waste law extends Apr. 6.

The appeal, based on the judges’ questioning, may turn on the court’s interpretation of a related law with terms similar to those in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals Ltd., 9th Cir., No. 15-35228, oral arguments 4/6/16).

Kevin M. Fong, of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in San Francisco, who represented smelter owner Teck Cominco Metals Ltd., argued that Teck had no “arranger liability” for aerial emissions from its smokestacks because CERCLA requires a direct deposit of contaminants onto land or into water .

But the State of Washington, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the Department of Justice (as an amicus party) panned that narrower view, saying it would subvert CERCLA’s remedial intent.

Superfund liability attaches when an entity “arranges” for the disposal of hazardous substances and those substances are “deposited” or “disposed of” at a site, at which point the site becomes a “facility,” here the Upper Columbia River Superfund Site.

‘Disposals’ and ‘Deposits’ Debated

Whether deposits of emissions from the smelter’s smokestacks in British Columbia fit the CERCLA mold is the crux of the appeal.

David Gualtieri, who argued for the Department of Justice, said the lack of court decisions on the aerial emission issue in the case reflected long-accepted notions of CERCLA’s broad reach and its goal of remediating contamination of land and water—even when, as here, it arrives by air .

“Why shouldn’t we take the government’s arguments as the tie-breaker even though it’s in an amicus brief?” Judge Consuelo M. Callahan asked Fong, noting a lack of specific EPA pronouncements on CERCLA’s applicability to aerial emissions.

Previous Ruling Questioned

But the panel also had to wrestle with a 2014 Ninth Circuit ruling on a related statute—the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act—in which the court limited the meaning of a “disposal” of hazardous substances to solid waste discharged directly onto land or into water (Ctr. for Cmty. Action & Envtl. Justice v. BNSF Ry.Co., 764 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 2014).

Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson asked counsel whether the court was bound byBNSF‘s definition of “disposal” even though the terms arise in two different statutes.

“We’re bound by the decisions of a prior panel,” Rawlinson said.

Fong agreed, but Gualtieri countered that BNSF doesn’t apply because it involves a fact-specific application of RCRA not intended to apply to CERCLA.

Andrew Fitz, who argued for the Washington State Attorney General’s office, concurred with Gaultieri, adding that CERCLA’s application to air emissions is well-established despite a lack of specific EPA regulations.

“A disposal occurs when it hits the land or water,” said Fitz, who disagreed that CERCLA excludes emissions that travel any distance through the air.

“If I carry a barrel of waste in the air, under Teck’s argument there’s no liability,” said Fitz, adding that involved railroad waste.

The court didn’t seem fully convinced.

“If the only distinction is that it was a railroad, you have to do better than that,” replied Callahan.

A decision in the appeal isn’t expected for several months.

Judges Michael Daly Hawkins, Johnnie B. Rawlinson and Consuelo M. Callahan heard the case.

The law offices of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman represented Teck Cominco Metals Ltd.

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office represented the State of Washington.

The Department of Justice represented the federal government as amicus curiae.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven M. Sellers in Washington atssellers@bna.com.

Northport – Teck Litigation

If you, or anyone you know, is interested in pursuing a personal injury claim against Teck smelter please contact Barbara Mahoney with Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP at:  barbaram@hbsslaw.com or (206) 268-9308.

They have prepared an initial client questionnaire to assist them in preparing these claims.

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