Archive for the ‘NORTHPORT, WASHINGTON’ Category

Tribes to Recover $8M in Costs to Nail Mining Company

Karina Brown
September 14, 2018

(CN) – A Canadian mining company must pay the $8 million it cost the Confederated Tribes of Colville to dig up evidence showing the company dumped toxic wastewater into the Canadian headwaters of the Columbia River, the Ninth Circuit ruled Friday.

Teck Metals vehemently denied having dumped water contaminated with mercury, arsenic and lead into the upper Columbia River near its smelter in Trail, British Columbia. But the Confederated Tribes of Colville successfully petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate. Based on the EPA’s findings, Teck’s U.S. subsidiary agreed to pay for a remedial investigation and feasibility study.

Then the tribes said Teck refused to initiate the cleanup the EPA’s order required. The tribes sued, spending $8.2 million investigating the pollution and tying it to Teck.

Two trials ensued, and U.S. District Court Judge Lonny R. Suko entered partial judgment finding Teck responsible for the pollution, which showed up as far as 150 miles south. Suko ordered the company to pay for the tribes’ costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Liability Act.

According to Suko, Teck’s leadership has known since the 1930s that it was dumping hundreds of tons of toxic wastewater slag into the Columbia River every day. Another trial phase still awaits the parties to determine whether Teck’s pollution damaged or destroyed natural resources in the Columbia River.

In the meantime, Teck appealed Suko’s order, arguing that the tribes lacked the authority to enforce CERCLA – more commonly known as Superfund – the trust set up by Congress to cover hazardous waste sites that need long-term cleanup.

On Friday, a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit called that argument “irrelevant,” affirming Judge Suko’s ruling. U.S. Circuit Judges Ronald M. Gould and Rickard A. Paez, joined by U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane, found that Suko properly separated the question of the tribes’ costs from its claims for natural resource damage.

The tribes’ investigative work showed that Teck emitted the toxic slag, and not, as the company claimed, other smelters. The tribes’ experts tied the pollution to Teck’s isotopic and geochemical “fingerprint,” the circuit found.

In addition, the panel concluded the tribes’ investigations count as a cost of removal or remedial action under CERCLA – even though the tribes used the information they uncovered in both their lawsuit and in support of the EPA’s investigation.

“Many, if not most, CERCLA plaintiffs study the contamination at a site with an eye to potential litigation, and it would make little sense to provide these costs only to parties that are disinclined to file suit,” Judge Gould wrote in the panel’s 34-page opinion.

 

Statistically Speaking – the EPA’s math doesn’t add up

Statistically Speaking

40% of the Community of Northport is sick with similar health issues. Yet, the EPA says, based on their research, the towns health issues cannot be linked to the Canadian smelter located 12 miles upriver from the town

 

by: Jamie Paparich

 

The EPA held a meeting to discuss their Human Health Risk Assessment of the 315 residents of Northport, Washington. There were 55 residents in the high school cafeteria that night, or 17.46% of the community, to hear why the EPA is certain that the communities’ chronic exposure to air pollution and slag emissions from Teck Resources, a Canadian smelter located 12 miles upriver, has nothing to do with their cluster of rare, similar health issues.

The 55 residents that attended the EPA meeting are part of a total of  383 past and present Northport residents who completed a  2011 health surveyAll  383 of these past and present residents, spanning 3 generations, have similar health issues.    That is  40% of 3 generations of Northport residents.

 

From a Statistical Perspective

Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease:

  • Annually approximately 2–14 people out of 100,000 are diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s in the United States – or:  .006
  • 54 past and present Northport residents, spanning 3 generations, have been diagnosed with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis – or:   7%
  • Of the 315 current residents 19 people have been diagnosed –  or:   6%

 Multiple sclerosis (MS):

  • Annually approx. 10,400 people are diagnosed with MS in the United States – or:   .003%. 
  • 32 past and present Northport residents, spanning 3 generations, have been diagnosed with MS – or:   4%

Brain Tumors/Cancers:

  • Annually approx. 23,880 people are diagnosed with Brain Tumors in the United States – or:   .007% 
  • 19 past and present Northport residents, spanning 3 generations, have been diagnosed with/or died from a brain tumor – or:   49.7%

Teck’s Legacy:

  • From 1921–2005 Teck released 63,578 tons of heavy metal toxins (arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead) through their air emissions. 
  • From 1906–1995 Teck released 58,611,000 tons of slag into the Columbia river, the equivalent of a dump truck emptying 19 tons of slag every hour, every day, for 60 years.
  • 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.
  • For Teck Smelter’s Timeline of Pollution read;  A Century of Evidence

 

Yet the EPA stood in front of those 55 people in the school cafeteria that night and tried to make them believe, statistically and scientifically, that their chronic exposure to heavy metal toxins from Teck Resources, and that of their family and friends, had nothing to do with 40% of their community being sick. Or at least, that is what their Human Health Risk Assessment will conclude….based on their statistic.

 

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“The Beginning of the End of the World”

The article below, “The Beginning of the End of the World”, was adapted from “Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America”.  It is an amazing, heartbreaking, and terrifying article.  It is a bit long, but I hope you will take the time to read it.  The story of Buzz and his family is a very familiar story to some of us, as is the conclusion of their story.  The mining, smelting and fracking industries are necessary.  I am from a family who has been in mining for three generations.  The jobs these industries provide are necessary and priceless to small communities, but so are our lives and the lives of those we love… and our land, which to many of us represent where we came from and who we are.  There is a safe and responsible way to run these companies.  However, many are not willing to spend the extra time and, ultimately, money to do it the safe way.  They don’t have to because the regulatory agencies are worse than the companies not meeting their regulations.  I have witnessed first-hand how the EPA will twist and construe the scientific truth of a study to hide the danger a community is in from the pollution of a powerful company, from a Goliath.  The truth is these companies are bigger than Goliath….as Grace, Buzz’s mom in the article below, points out; they are bigger than God.  They are knowingly creating “the beginning of the end of the world”… and our Government Agencies, created to protect us, are helping them.

Click here to read “The Beginning of the End of the World” by Eliza Griswold.

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“The Death List”

by:  Jamie Paparich

In 1992 reporter Julie Titone wrote an article in the Spokesman-Review, “Canadian companies suspected in illnesses“.  The article focused on a group of mothers in Northport, Washington and the health effects their small community suffered from because of, in their opinion, chronic exposure to the heavy metal toxins released by a Canadian smelter 3 miles up river, Teck Cominco.

The article begins with neighbors Naomi Palm, Faye Jackman, and FullSizeRender[8]Kay Paparich sitting in Naomi’s kitchen. In front of Naomi was her hand written notes of a health survey the women conducted in the community.  The notes listed the similar illnesses her and all her neighbors, family, and friends suffered from.  Naomi called it her “death list”.  The list contained 45 previous residents who passed away from four types of cancer, and 163 residents all suffering from similar diseases. In a town of 375 people the list was alarming, to say the least.

At the time of the article the small community was paralyzed with fear. Children continued to be diagnosed with two rare intestinal diseases, friends and neighbors were passing away from brain aneurisms or tumors, cancer, or suffering from the debilitating effects of multiple scoliosis and parkinson’s disease.

In 1991 these determined women began conducting their own health survey of the community.  After months of knocking on doors they compiled the information their neighbors had provided.  They discovered that of the 7 families living along Mitchell Road, all living within a 2 mile radius of each other, fifteen children had been diagnosed with 2 rare auto immune diseases, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. At the time of the survey approximately 1 in 100,000 people were diagnosed with either Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s in the United States.

The woman also discovered that of the six families living along Waneta Road, across the Columbia River from Mitchell Road, 12 people had died, or suffered from, brain aneurisms or brain tumors.  Statistically 8-10 people out of 100,000 people suffer from a brain aneurism in the United States.    

Naomi mapped out the illnesses collected from their survey in an attempt to understand if their route of exposure to the smelter’s toxins might be the common denominator FullSizeRender[1]effecting their families with these rare illnesses.  Their exposures differed in many ways. Not everyone swam in the river, not everyone grew their own gardens, or ate the fish…..but the one common denominator quickly became clear.  It was the air.  The families all lived in a valley, next to the Columbia River.  The pollution flowing south from the smelter often got trapped in the valley walls.

Two months after the 1992 article was published the Washington State Department of Ecology began the first of four phases of air monitoring in the area.  The results of all four phases of the monitoring showed that levels of arsenic were 200 times higher than national safety standards, and levels of cadmium were 18 times higher.  Ecology issued the smelter a warning that continuous air monitoring of the area was necessary.  Teck did continue to monitor the air until 2009, according to EPA documents.  The levels of arsenic and cadmium continued to exceed safety standards at the same rate. The residents of Northport were never made aware of these results.  

FullSizeRender[3] 2The 1992 article ended with Kay Paparich voicing her concern for future generations of Northport residents, “It’s too late for my children because they’ve already got these problems, but what about the little ones coming up?”

“The little ones coming up”, that Kay was so concerned about in 1992, are now in their 20’s and 30’s, suffering from the same illnesses that these women discussed in Naomi’s kitchen 24 years ago.

In 2009 – 2011 residents conducted another community health survey of past and present Northport residents.  The results mirrored those of the 1991 community health survey, and confirmed Kay’s concerns were valid.  Not only were residents still being diagnosed with the same health issues, at the same rate, reported cases of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and cases of the four types of cancers of concern had increased.  The diagnosed cases of the rare IBD’s ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s reached such rare, extremely high levels that it caught the attention of Dr. Korzenik, director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). With the assistance of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Korzenik and his team conducted their own community survey in which 119 current Northport residents participated, 17 residents had confirmed cases of either Crohn’s or colitis.  Dr. Korzenik, one of the leading IBD researchers in the country, stated;

“That’s about 10 to 15 times what we’d expect to see in a population the size of Northport. I’m not aware of any other cluster like it.”

What the group of Northport women, gathered around their neighbor’s kitchen table in 1991, discovered by coming together and using plain common sense, took government agencies decades, and millions of dollars, to finally realize.  

The EPA  reached an agreement with Teck in 2006, in which Teck agreed to fund a remedial investigation of the Upper Columbia River area and clean up any contaminated areas with levels of toxins that would be hazardous to humans or the environment.  However, the air still continues to be ignored. 

All of the studies conducted of the1358318832 area as far back as 1989 have forensically and scientifically confirmed that the source of contamination is Teck Resources. More specifically, the primary source of contamination is from Teck’s aerial dispersion of heavy metal toxins, through their smoke stacks. EPA project manager Laura Buelow stated;

“(T)he data shows that the soil became contaminated from historical smelting operations at the Trail smelter, specifically the metals coming out of the smelter stacks (air).”

Ecology’s 2017 evaluation of the past air monitoring conducted in the area concluded that new, consistent air monitors should be installed at appropriate locations in and around Northport.  They recommended this based on several “limitations” and “discrepancies” they found in Teck’s air monitoring recordings and reporting done in the past.  Also, since the concentration of arsenic and cadmium already exceed the EPA’s Acceptable source impact level (ASIL) in Northport, Ecology believes it would be dangerous not to install these monitors as soon as possible.

Ecology’s above recommendation, along with a petition signed by 100 Northport residents and the opinion of the Northeast Tri-County Health District was not enough to persuade the EPA.

Last month the EPA informed Northport residents that after much consideration further air monitoring of the area would not be done.  Cami Grandinetti, a manager in EPA’s remedial cleanup program, said;

From our evaluation of data collected in 1999 to 2009 we believe that the risk to you from the outdoor air in Northport is low.”

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Teck’s air emissions have poisoned over three generations of Northport residents. Residents continue to be diagnosed with debilitating auto immune diseases at alarming rates. So how is it that the EPA believes that our risk from Teck’s air emissions in the air in Northport is low?  Especially since all past air monitoring done in our area has shown just the opposite. 

EPA won’t help Northport, leaving towns fate in the hands of the State of WA

(By Colin Haffner/Chewelah Independent)

Agency feels risk from outdoor air in Northport is low…

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has denied a request to restart air quality testing downwind of one of the world’s largest lead and zinc smelters and refineries in Canada. This leaves the State of Washington in search of financing to conduct the testing on its own, according to The Spokesman Review.

Teck Resources Ltd., located in Trail, British Columbia, is situated just 20 miles north of Northport, WA, and per the Spokesman’s May 5 article, more than 100 local residents filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency to install air monitors between the town and the Canadian border.

The petition was sent last December. Signers of the petition, including residents, the Northport Project and citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC) are asking for three long -term air monitors in and around Northport in order to help address concerns over health related issues experienced by residents.

Jamie Paparich is one of the key organizers behind the Northport Project. In an April article run by the Chewelah Independent, Paparich told the publication, “Residents believe that the air is the culprit behind the many health clusters in our small community. Studies have been conducted showing chronic exposure to elevated ambient arsenic and cadmium causes damage to the immune system and gastrointestinal tract. All of our health issues are auto immune related, and the biggest health cluster of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease is linked directly to the gastrointestinal tract. A study Harvard conducted of our community showed cases of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s to be diagnosed 11.5 to 18 times higher in Northport than anywhere else in the County. Residents continue to be diagnosed. I know of two residents who have been already diagnosed this year.”

Concern of the effects from the Teck smelter on human health has been ongoing for many years. Monitoring by the state in the 1990s showed arsenic and cadmium levels were well beyond acceptable safety standards.

In 2016, the Colville Confederated Tribes won an $8.25 million lawsuit against Teck after the company admitted dumping nearly 10 million tons of slag into the Columbia River between 1930 and 1995.

Recent state models show that the smelter could be sending the highest known airborne levels of arsenic and lead over the border into Washington, Oregon and Idaho, The Spokesman stated.

Monitoring is estimated to cost the State Department of Ecology about $300,000. Brook Beeler, an ecology spokeswoman, said they will look into raising the funds through grants or other agency funding, according to the Spokesman.

The state models were based off six years of data from 2009 to 2014 using the British Columbia government’s projections of heavy metal levels crossing the border.

2009 was the last time air quality was monitored on the Washington side of the border.

Since the mid-1990s, Teck has spent over $1.5 billion on improvements to their smelter, the Spokesman stated, reducing emissions by more than 99 percent, according to Chris Stannell, a spokesman for Teck. Stannell contends the smelter already follows many pollution controls required by the Canadian government, and there are air quality stations situated just 7km (4.35 miles) from the Washington-Canadian border.

Stannell noted to the Independent in April, “air quality is monitored 24 hours a day for metals (including lead) and sulphur dioxide at a variety of locations throughout the Trail area and the operation is in full compliance with all provincial and federal regulations relating to air emissions.”

In the Spokesman article, it was stated that data showed that the average levels of lead and arsenic were many times higher than the next highest reading in the Northwest which was taken in Seattle’s industrial area. The heavy metals in those emissions could pose an increase in serious long-term health risks such as cancer, though short-term effects pose little risk.

Despite all the data, EPA officials do not believe additional monitoring is needed. “From our evaluation of data collected in 1999 to 2009, we believe that the risk to you from the outdoor air in Northport is low,” Cami Grandinetti, a manager in the EPA’s remedial cleanup program, wrote in an April letter and went on to state with additional improvements at the smelter, “we expect current day operations to be even lower,” the Spokesman said.

Ecology offers hope to Northport, as EPA continues to deny cluster of health issues

Listen to the Spokane Public Radio news story live by clicking here.

EPA Won’t Test Air in Northport, WA—Despite Potential Danger to Residents

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