Archive for the ‘Pakootas’ Category

Teck Continues to Avoid Responsibility

Colville Tribes Files Response in Teck’s 9th Circuit Appeal

For Immediate Release

July 10, 2017


Nespelem, WA)- – The Colville Tribes has filed a final brief in its latest 9th Circuit Court of Appeals battle with Teck Metals, a company which dumped toxic waste in the Upper Columbia River for decades.   In the past several years, Teck has suffered a series of losses in federal court battles with the Tribes, attempting to avoid liability for polluting the Columbia from its Trail, B.C. Smelter.  In its latest maneuver, Teck asked the 9th Circuit to overturn several lower court decisions in the case. Colville filed its brief on June 30, and Teck must submit a final reply brief by August 14, setting the stage for oral argument, likely in early 2018.

The Colville Tribes and the State of Washington initially sued Teck  to force Teck to participate in investigation and cleanup of the Upper Columbia in. 2008. Since then federal courts have found that Teck is liable under US environmental law  and responsible for costs of investigation and any cleanup of a 150-mile stretch of the Upper Columbia River, and that the mining company and must pay the Tribes’ legal costs in the suit. Teck is appealing these decisions, as well as an award of $8.3 million in legal fees and expert costs to the Tribes, and a decision finding that Teck must pay the entire price tag for cleanup, rather than dividing these costs among other much smaller and mostly now-defunct mining operations.


“This is a very predictable pattern,” Dr. Michael E. Marchand, Colville Business Council Chairman, said today.  “The Colville Tribes win in court and Teck does everything it can to delay meeting its legal and moral obligations to clean up our River.”

Teck’s lead-zinc smelter in British Columbia, the largest in the world, sits just across the US border from the Colville Tribes’ traditional territories in northern Washington.  For decades Teck dumped several hundred tons per day of blast furnace slag, as well as liquid effluent into the Columbia River.


  “Maybe Teck believes it can wear us down by appeal after appeal, but we will not give up,” Marchand said.  “The Columbia River has always been crucial to our culture, our history, and our very survival as a people.  We look forward to the day when Teck accepts its responsibility for the damage it has caused and cleanup can begin.”

Click here for audio of article

Teck’s “dissapointment” is disgraceful

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.

Sign Petition to Deny Teck’s Air Emissions Appeal

If you are a past or present Northport, WA resident, or a resident of a community nearby, please read the petition below. 

If you agree with the statement please copy and paste the petition to an e-mail. Sign (type) your name, date, address and email at the bottom.  Forward your email to:

I will gather as many signed petitions as possible and send them on to the appellant panel.  


Petition to Deny Teck Resource’s Air Emissions Appeal


We, the citizens of Northport, Washington are petitioning the Federal Court Appellant Panel for Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals, Ltd., No. 15-800005 (9th Cir.) to deny the defendants appeal in which Teck claims their air emissions are not considered a form of ‘disposal’ under CERCLA, and therefore they cannot be held liable for the damage caused by the smelter’s air emissions.

On April 6, 2016 the panel heard arguments on Teck’s appeal.  During the hearing the panel expressed the definition of air emissions under CERCLA law, as applied in Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice v. BNSF Railway Co., does not specify air emissions as ‘disposal’ of industrial waste in the verbiage Congress used.  The panel gave the impression of leaning in favor of Teck’s argument.

In the 1935 Ottawa Convention, a bilateral process between Canada and the United States was used to negotiate a lawsuit filed by two Northport farmers against Trail (Teck) Smelter.  The farmers claimed the smelter’s sulfur dioxide emissions had caused damage to their crops and livestock.  The investigation found that from 1929-1931 Trail emitted approximately 10,000 tons of sulfur per month, or 350 tons per day.  The United States and Canada concluded that the smelter’s emissions had caused damage to the property of the farmers, as well as the surrounding forest areas.  This agreement should set a precedence as to whether or not air emissions can be considered a form of ‘disposal’.

The results of all studies done of the area have shown damages were caused by the air emissions released by Teck’s smoke stacks.  The 1936 USDA Forest Damage Air Modeling Study, the EPA decade long remedial investigation, Ecology’s air monitoring, soil and wetland studies, The Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), and Teck’s own remedial investigation, have all confirmed that the primary source of contamination of the Upper Columbia River area is Teck Resources.  More specifically, Teck’s aerial dispersion of heavy metal toxins, through their smoke stakes, was the primary source of contamination.

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).”

The Washington State Department of Ecology conducted soil sampling in 2012 as part of the Upper Columbia River Valley investigation.  They concluded “Sediment samples were analyzed for lead, zinc, arsenic, cadmium, copper, antimony, mercury, total organic carbon, and grain size. Findings from both 2012 studies confirm elevated levels of metals in surface soils found in the Upper Columbia River Valley, and sediments in associated lakes and wetlands. The studies also show these metals came mostly from past smelter emissions in Trail B.C.

The 1999 pre assessment screening for the Upper Columbia River Valley, conducted by the Upper Columbia River Natural Resource Trustee Council, concluded that based on prior studies and investigations “(t)he smelter is located within a deep valley with predominant winds from the northeast, which bring smelter emissions into the UCRS. Denuded vegetation from SO2 emissions, documented in 1929, indicated that smelter emissions traveled down the Columbia River at least as far as Northport. Historic smelter emissions have potentially impacted upland soils and other resources. Goodzari (2002a, 2002b) documented aerial deposition originating from the smelter and measured elevated As, Cd, Cu, Pb, Hg and Zn concentrations in soil, as far as the US-Canada border.”

To simplify our point;  Between 1921-2005 Teck smelter released; 38,465 tons of Zinc, 22,688 tons of Lead, 1,225 tons of Arsenic, 1,103 tons of Cadmium, and 97 tons of Mercury through their air emissions into the State of Washington, located 3 miles downriver from the Canadian smelter.  

To find in favor of Teck’s manipulation of the CERCLA statute would be a major injustice to the communities along the Upper Columbia River who have suffered from major auto immune diseases because of their decades of exposure to Teck’s toxic air.  We were unaware of the danger we were in until very recently.  The government agencies, created to protect us, let us down in the past.  We hope the U.S. federal court system will do the job they took an oath to do, to fairly interpret U.S. law when ruling on a case.  Please do not allow this Canadian smelter to manipulate U.S. law so they benefit, while the Upper Columbia River Valley’s environment and residents would continue to be damaged and ignored.

To rule in Teck’s favor would not only continue to endanger the lives of WA residents, it would make a mockery of the CERCLA/Superfund program, and create a legal precedent that would set environmental law back 30 years.

DATE: ________________________

SIGNATURE (typed):  ___________________________

ADDRESS: ___________________________________

E-MAIL:  _____________________________________

Excellent opinion article on Teck’s “artful stalling”

OPINION: Canadian smelter refines its legal case with admission [The Seattle Times]

By Lance Dickie, The Seattle Times McClatchy-Tribune Information Services 

Sept. 14–After years of legal quibbling, artful stalling, and averted eyes, Canadian smelter Teck Metals Ltd. acknowledged a century of using the Upper Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt as an industrial sewer.

Teck Cominco, Teck Resources or Teck Metals, regardless of the corporate alias, the company admitted this week it had discharged 10 million tons of slag from its smelting process and hundreds of thousands of tons of heavy metals into the river at Trail, B.C., 10 miles north of the border.

The company admits that slag and effluent discharged between 1896 and 1995 made it to the Columbia from its smelter operations, and some hazardous substances were released into the environment within the United States.

The qualified confession came in the form of a legal stipulation filed Monday, a week before trial was to begin in U.S. District Court in Yakima.

Moving a step ahead, the next phase of the trial, now set to start Oct. 10, will look at liability for damages under U.S. law, what must be done to deal with the pollution and how much the company might have to pay.

Over the years, the state Department of Ecology has had estimates that topped $1 billion to make things right from the border down 150 miles to Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam.

The language in the 15-page legal document is shocking to anyone not used to the boiler plate of calculated admissions:

“Between 1930 and 1995, Teck discharged at least 9.97 million tons of slag into the Columbia River via outfalls at its Trail Smelter. This discharge was intentional.”

Or Teck’s other fetid contribution to the Columbia River. “The discharged effluent contained lead, zinc, cadmium, arsenic, copper, mercury, thallium and other metals, as well as a variety of other chemical compounds … This discharge was intentional.”

The company will concede that this nasty stuff has leached into the environment, but wants to argue whether it has really, really done any harm. O benign mercury.

How accountability translates into pollution cleanup is a work in progress. The company, in a news release announcing an agreement “as to certain facts in Upper Columbia River litigation,” argues the slag downstream is “generally inert.” Not unlike Teck.

The Canadian smelter is still pecking away on a “remedial investigation and feasibility study” that began in 2006 under the supervision of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. That review of environmental conditions in and around the river is expected to be finished by 2015, according to the company.

No progress would be evident without the tenacious pursuit of environmental justice by two leaders of The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, Joseph Pakootas and Donald Michel, who filed a federal lawsuit in 2004. They were joined by the state.

The legal skirmishing is not over. Four years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal that Teck was not subject to the U.S. Superfund law. The smelter apparently intends to recycle that argument because, golly, how was it to know all that icky stuff would end up downstream in the U. S.?

Arrogance and cynicism are two additional effluvial emissions from Teck Resources Ltd. that will no doubt prove costly for the corporate treasury and stockholders as well.

Lance Dickie’s column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is


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