Archive for the ‘Teck Resources’ Category

Northport residents continue to fight for long term air monitors as more and more residents continue to be diagnosed with debilitating diseases

Northport residents renew calls for air monitoring after state modeling says a Canadian smelter is polluting their town

Fri., March 16, 2018, 6 a.m.

By Becky Kramer

beckyk@spokesman.com

(509) 459-5466

Clifford Ward lives near Northport, Washington, a town of about 300 people in forested area along the upper Columbia River.

Despite its remote location, the city is downwind from a large industrial operation. About 15 miles to the north in Trail, British Columbia, Teck Resources Ltd. runs one of the world’s largest integrated lead and zinc smelters and refineries.

Modeling done by the state Department of Ecology indicated the smelter could be sending the highest known airborne levels of arsenic and lead in Washington, Oregon and Idaho over the international border.

In December, Ward and more than 100 other local residents petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to install air monitors from Northport to the border.

“I think we have the right to know what it is that we may or may not be breathing,” said Ward, a board member of Citizens for a Clean Columbia, a local activist group.

Both the state of Washington and the local Northeast Tri-County Health District support the monitoring, but EPA officials haven’t made a decision.

“We are still reviewing it,” said Mark MacIntyre, an EPA spokesman in Seattle.

The Teck smelter has operated for more than a century. It’s better known for its historic releases of pollution into the Columbia River, which is the subject of ongoing litigation against the company by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the state.

Chad Pederson, a Teck Resources spokesman, said the company has spent more than $85 million on studies to determine if historical disposal practices at the Trail smelter have caused unacceptable risks to human health or the environment. The studies are being conducted with EPA oversight.

The Department of Ecology’s modeling, however, looks at the smelter’s projected air emissions for more recent years. Air quality monitoring hasn’t been conducted on the Washington side of the border since 2009.

Ecology officials used six years of air monitoring data from British Columbia’s government to project levels of heavy metal crossing the border between 2009 and 2014.

“It predicts what may be occurring in Washington state, since we don’t have current data sets,” said John Roland, the state’s Upper Columbia site project manager.

Average lead levels modeled at the U.S.-Canadian border were about seven times higher than the Northwest’s next-largest reading, The modeling effort also projected elevated cadmium levels, but a Portland air quality monitor next to an art-glass foundry had recorded higher levels.

The projected metals crossing the border are measured in micrograms per cubic meter. While they wouldn’t pose a short-term health risk to local residents, long-term inhalation could increase people’s risk of getting cancer, according to the Department of Ecology.

Based on the smelter’s sheer size, it’s not surprising it would be the region’s largest emitter of airborne metals, said Roland.

Roland said the state wants a say in designing any future air monitoring that occurs in the Northport area. Since the smelter now accepts some types of electronic waste for recycling, the list of metals monitored may need to be expanded, he said.

Teck officials, however, dispute the need for air quality monitoring in the Northport area.

“Ecology’s request for renewed air monitoring in the U.S. misunderstands the data Teck reports to the B.C. government, as well as (the) Trail operations modern compliance history,” Pederson, the company spokesman, said in an email.

Teck has spent more than $1.5 billion in modernizing the Trail smelter since the mid-1990s. Pederson said the investments have improved operations and reduced air and water emissions by more than 95 percent.

Northport residents need ongoing air monitoring, said Jamie Paparich, whose family owns property north of town. Without the data, people won’t know if they’re currently being exposed to risky levels of metals, she said.

The Northeast Tri-County Health District takes a similar position, said Matt Schanz, the administrator. Though Teck has substantially reduced its emissions, airborne arsenic and lead levels are a public health issue, he said.

“It’s really important that we understand the impacts on our own side of the border,” Schanz said.

Teck’s appeal suggests denial of admission of the 9.97 million tons of toxins they disposed of directly into Columbia River

As a follow up to Teck’s current appeal please read the following;

 

In October 2013,  the day before the scheduled trial that would have provided evidence of Teck’s century of pollution, Teck admitted to a host of (some) factual details of their century of polluting the Columbia River.  This was a very calculated move on Teck’s part to avoid going to trial, where the full extent of their decades of gross negligence would have come to light not only becoming public record, but greatly effecting their likelihood to appeal any court rulings against them in the decades of court rulings to come.

The evidence showed between 1930 and 1995 Teck discharged at least 9.97 million tons of slag (a black, sand like by product of the smelting process, which contains heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, zinc and lead) directly into the Columbia River. . . . According to Teck’s documentation they discarded approximately 400 tons of slag directly into the Columbia River every day, for approximately 60 years.

 

AIR EMISSIONS RELEASED FROM TECK SMOKE STACKS: Between 1921 – 2005;

  • 38,465 tonnes of Zinc
  • 22,688 tonnes of Lead
  • 1,225 tonnes of Arsenic
  • 1,103 tonnes of Cadmium
  • 97 tonnes of Mercury

 

(THESE FIGURES DO NOT INCLUDE THE ONGOING AMOUNT OF TOXINS CURRENTLY BEING RELEASED THROUGH THEIR AIR EMISSIONS)

 

TOXIC SLAG TECK DEPOSITED INTO COLUMBIA RIVER: Between 1906 – 1995;

  • 1,314,00 tonnes of Lead
  • 4,434,750 tonnes of Cadmium
  • 302,250 tonnes of Mercury
  • 525,600,000 tonnes of Zinc

 

For a Timeline of Teck’s Century of Pollution Click here

 

Canadian-smelter-making-US-neighbours-sick-downstream-residents-say

“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)

Teck appeals $8.25 million U.S. court ruling – of course.

On Feb. 16th, 2018 Trail Times reported Teck Resources is appealing the 2016 $8.25 million U.S. court ruling by District Court Judge Lonny Suko.  This ruling found in favor of The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (CCT).  Of the $82.5 million awarded, $4.9 million is allocated to the CCT’s decades of litigation costs and $3.4 million is allocated for the expenses related to their investigative studies of the water.

Teck believes they should not be responsible for paying the $8.25 million the CCT had no choice but to spend to eventually force Teck into taking responsibility for the damages their century of gross negligence caused.  Teck claims that since beginning their remedial investigation study of our area in 2006 (ish) they have spent $85 million also stating; “To date, these studies are showing in general that the water in the Columbia River is clean, fish are as safe to eat as fish from other water bodies in Washington State, and beaches are safe for recreational activities.”

I am going to try to remain calm here.  No need to lose my shit over this.  I will simply dispute Teck’s quote above with ACTUAL FACTS, being the ACTUAL results of their studies.  Keep in mind I am only addressing SOME of their studies conducted, but rest assured all the results of the other studies were very similar to those listed below.

To date, Teck’s studies (partial list below) have concluded the following;

  • 2005 Sediment Toxicity Tests –  Concluded; “Contaminants in the UCR….surface sediment (are) at concentrations that pose unacceptable risk to benthic/epibenthic resources” and “…elevated concentrations of metals in most of the UCR sediment samples”
  • 1993 – 2009 Air Monitoring of Northport – Concluded; “…particulate matter less than 10-μm in size (PM10) concentrations of arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), and lead (Pb) significantly exceeded health impact screening concentrations”.
  • 2008 & 2009 White Sturgeon Acute Water Toxicity Study – Concluded; Acute exposures of cadmium, copper and zinc to ELS of white sturgeon resulted in acute toxicity due to levels of these heavy metals being “….substantially greater than the acute water quality criteria for these metals in the state of Washington.”
  • 2012 Human Health Evaluation of Contaminants in UCR Fish – Concluded; …heavy metal toxins of concern are higher to those seen in other fished waterbodies across the northeast region.
  • 2015 Northport Residential Soil Study Summary – Concluded; …dangerous levels of specific heavy metal toxins (lead, arsenic and/or cadmium) found on properties of 15 Northport residents prompted Teck to complete expedited clean-ups of these properties.
  • 2016 Additional Northport/UCR Residential Soil Study Summary – Concluded;  …dangerous levels of specific heavy metal toxins (arsenic, lead and/or cadmium) found on properties of 13 Northport/UCR residents prompted Teck to complete expedited clean-up of these properties.

Also worth mentioning;

  • 2017 Department of Ecology’s Preliminary Review and Evaluation of Available Air Quality Monitoring Data and Consideration of Potential Present-Day Health Risks: Upper Columbia River Valley, near Northport, Washington  – Concluded; Teck’s air monitors assessing potential air quality conditions near Northport between 2009 and 2014 indicates recent average PM10 As and Cd concentrations that exceed State of Washington ASILs (Safety Standards), Just as they did in Ecology’s 1992 – 1996 four air monitoring studies.  

I am going to try to not to even get into depth about the fact that time after time, community meeting after community meeting, press release after press release Teck has claimed to accept responsibility for the damages their century of pollution has caused and would be paying for all the studies, testing and clean ups deemed necessary.  Yet, they continue to appeal every court finding they do not win.

If you want to truly be amazed read this 2017 article on how they managed to avoid responsibility for the well documented damages caused by the heavy metal toxic air particulates, found way above safety standards, their smoke stacks have released into Northport and the Upper Columbia River valley since the early 1920’s.

To read all of the studies Teck has completed of the Upper Columbia River site please go to:  https://www.ucr-rifs.com/home/documents-plans/.

 

“For the better part of 20 years now, Teck has continued to fight liability and associated obligations at all levels for the century’s worth of industrial wastes Trail historically discharged directly to the Columbia River or from smoke stacks at the smelter complex. The litigation and multiple appeals continue in federal court.”    

– Washington State Department of Ecology

Ecology Memo Recommending Additional Air Monitoring in Northport, WA

Department of Ecology

 

13 April 2017

TO:  Karen Wood and Chris Hanlon-Meyer

FROM:  Matt Kadlec

SUBJECT:  Regional PM10 Air Monitoring Speciation Network Comparison to
Measured and Predicted Conditions in the Upper Columbia River Valley
near the U.S.-Canadian Border

 

An analysis was recently completed on observed and estimated recent air quality
conditions for arsenic, cadmium, and lead within the upper Columbia River valley near
the international border.[1]  The report recommended a renewal of monitoring of certain aerosol elements in that area in order to conclusively determine current air quality conditions there.

Those estimates are matched to comparable data from monitors in Washington,
Oregon and Idaho as follows.

In the histograms below, the mean concentrations of US EPA Air Quality System
(AQS)[2] PM10 speciation data are compared to estimates of the mean concentrations
near Northport and the upper Columbia River Valley near the border (UCR). All the
means are of the February 2009 through December 2014 interval.

arsenic

 

 

 

cadmium

lead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISCUSSION

The upper limit of each location’s histogram bar is the ≈ 6-year mean PM10 element
concentration in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). The purple bars are the
estimated concentrations in the upper Columbia River Valley area and near Northport.
The blue bars are the observed mean concentrations at the AQS monitor locations.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Average airborne PM10 arsenic and lead concentrations in the upper Columbia River
valley near the international border are potentially the highest known levels in
Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Likewise, the average airborne cadmium
concentrations are potentially the highest known anywhere in three states except at the monitor at 2231 N Flint Ave, Portland, OR, which is about 500 feet from an art-glass
foundry known to have emitted high levels of cadmium in particulate matter.[3]

Previously interpreted air monitoring data from 2009 through 2014 suggest that current
emissions from the Trail smelter continue to influence upper Columbia River valley air
quality. PM10 arsenic, cadmium and lead concentrations in the upper Columbia River
valley near the international border exceed expected air quality conditions for a rural
setting. Absent smelter emissions, the particulate metal concentrations in this rural
portion or northeast Washington likely would be about as low as those at the monitors
in rural Oregon and Idaho.

These findings reinforce the need for current PM10 speciation monitoring in the upper
Columbia River Valley near the international border and Northport area.

 

 

1 https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/SummaryPages/1702003.html
2 https://www.epa.gov/aqs accessed by Jill Schulte, 6 April 2017

3 http://www.opb.org/news/article/why-portland-heavy-metals-pollution-went-undetected-for-so-long/ Accessed 11 April 2017

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.

blacksandbeach1

“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 Smelter Fined Largest Environmental Penalty in BC History 


Teck Smelter fined largest environmental penalty in British Columbia history.   Although the majority of their pollution travels 3 miles downriver into the U.S., we cannot fine them because they are a Canadian company, and they cannot be held liable under U.S. Laws.

The Smelter’s Impact

 THE HISTORY

For over 100 years the residents of Northport, a small town in northeast Washington near the Canadian border, have been and continue to be poisoned by the heavy metal toxins released by Teck Cominco, a smelter in Trail B.C. Canada.

Teck Cominco, (now known as Teck Resources), is one of the world’s largest lead and zinc smelting plants in the world. Since 1906 the smelter’s processing of ore concentrates produce lead, zinc, cadmium, sulfuric acid and a number of other products. The waste, or discharge, from the smelting process contains dangerous heavy metal toxins and is released in two ways; water and air.

                                    

 WATER

Teck Smelter - release of slag into ColumbiaThe solid discharge is known as slag. The slag is a black, glass like material that resembles sand. It is made up of heavy metal toxins such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, manganese, mercury and chromium, just to name a few. From 1906 – 1996 Teck disposed of 450 tons of slag a DAY through specially designed pipes that dumped the toxins directly into the Columbia River. Teck reasoned that, due to the velocity of the Columbia River, the slag would dilute enough before it would cross the Canadian Border and come to populated areas. Unfortunately, Teck was wrong. The practice of disposing the slag into the river was stopped in 1996.  It was estimated at that time that Teck had dumped approximately 9.8 million tons of slag into the river, and concern was growing regarding the impact the slag was having on the environment and human health.

Contrary to Teck’s theory, the slag was not being diluted by the time it reached a populated area.  Approximately 3 miles down river from the release point the Columbia crosses over into Washington State. It is here the water in the river begins to slow down. Unfortunately, the area where the river first begins to slow, which then creates an environment for the slag to disperse and settle, was through the first populated area it came to, Northport, Washington.

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NORTHPORT

The population of Northport is, and has been, stable at around 310 people in town and approximately 65 living just outside the town limits. It is a rural community that utilizes the river not only for livelihood but for recreation as well. The farmers and ranchers irrigate their crops and water their livestock with the river water; the children grow up learning to swim in the river, especially in the swimming holes. The swimming holes, or pot holes, are pools of river water that overflow into deep recesses of the land. The recessed area fills up with river water and the water becomes warm due to the heat of the summer sun. 40 years ago these warm pools of water became the perfect place for children to splash, swim and spend a good portion of their summer days in. It also became the perfect place for the slag from the river water to settle to the bottom, banks, and adjacent area around the “swimming hole”. Aerial July 014_jpg.jpgAs the children would spend endless summer days enjoying the river and the swimming holes they didn’t know they were slowly being poisoned by the toxins a smelter, three miles upstream, had carelessly released over decades.

Today the children of Northport know not to swim in the river. Their parents have warned them and not only have they heard the stories of the toxins in the river, some have witnessed the effects first hand. Watching one or both of their parents suffer from a debilitating auto immune disease and sadly, despite the care their parents took to protect them, some of these children are already suffering from an auto immune disease of their own.

To read more on health issues of town click here.

                                    

AIR

The second route of contamination is from the air. The smelter has two smoke stacks in which the smoke from the smelting process is released. This air is full of particulate matter, which are microscopically small pieces of matter containing heavy metal toxins.  Northport is located in the deep valley of the Columbia River.  This valley influences air dispersion by limiting wind direction along the river, resulting in the prevailing winds carrying toxic smoke from Trail down the Columbia River valley, where a majority of the air becomes “trapped” in the valley walls, above the many farms and ranches outside of Northport and into the town as well.  Which is why this area was nicknamed “The Heavy Fallout Zone” by the EPA.

The amount of sulfur dioxide Teck Cominco was releasing in the air reached such a damaging level in 1933 Northport farmers sued Teck (then Trail Smelter) for the damage they had caused to their livestock and crops, greatly impacting their annual earnings. The air was so polluted crops were visibly burned and the pollutants were killing the animals via the food they ate and the inhalation of the air. The burn line on the trees was still visible well into the 1980’s. Journals a family in Northport kept, written by a family member at the time, summarized that the air was so bad barbwire fences were disintegrating, paint on cars was peeling off, and animals were falling over dead. In 1941, after a drawn out process, the International Joint Commission agreed Teck was liable and ordered them to pay the farmers $34,807.00.

After the lawsuit Teck drastically decreased the amount of sulfur dioxide released in their smoke stacks. However, their air emissions are still full of heavy metal toxins. The toxins, specifically arsenic, cadmium and lead, are at levels that are way above safety levels.

According to four air monitoring studies conducted in Northport by the Washington State Department of Ecology, (between 1993-1998), the levels of arsenic and cadmium were way above the Acceptable Source Impact Level (ASIL), and way higher than the Risk Based Concentration Level.  Teck was instructed to install air monitoring in Northport after the final air monitoring report was published by Ecology in 1998.  They have yet to install any air monitors.

To read more on air emission results click here. 

                                    

THE SMELTER, THE EPA  & THE CROSS BORDER CONTAMINATION

Teck knowingly poisoned over three generations of innocent residents in Northport and other communities along the Upper Columbia River.

Between 1921 – 2005 Teck released;  36,465 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.

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

Not only that but Teck failed to report most of their recorded 89 spills of various toxins into the river and air. One of these accidental spills was 6,330 tons of mercury, released directly into the Columbia River in 1982.  It took them five weeks to alert American officials.  

Our government agencies, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), knowingly allowed Teck to operate any way they wanted, having no consequences for their gross negligence and disregard of our environment and human lives.

The EPA investigators were encouraged by their superiors not to find any real conclusions when investigating the impacts Teck’s pollution had caused on Northport’s environment and the residents health. They were trying to avoid a sticky situation with cross border pollution.  So several studies the EPA, Department of Health (DOH), and the Agency for Toxic Substances conducted in the 1990’s concluded that basically the toxin levels they discovered were above safety standards, but more studies would need to be done.  They were dragging their feet, just as they were told to do.   The government agencies created to protect our health and environment, the EPA, DOH, and the ATSDR, all turned a blind eye to the problem for decades.

However, the EPA knew under The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), or Superfund, a remedial investigation and feasibility study would need to be done. Teck refused to cooperate.  The EPA issued Teck a Unilateral Administrative Order, demanding they assist with the investigation.  Teck ignored the order, and the EPA all but forgot about it. Finally, two members from the Colville Confederate Tribe filed a civil suit against the EPA under CERCLA in 2004.  This suit demanded that the EPA enforce their order against Teck.  After several court battles Teck lost it’s last appeal and was forced to cooperate with the EPA to complete a study of the Upper Columbia River.  The first phases of the studies began in 2006.  After 9 years of testing, and usually re-testing, the studies are finally progressing.  

                                    

HEALTH ISSUES LINKED TO EXPOSURE

 

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Residents in Northport conducted their own health survey in 2009. Health questionnaires were distributed to current and past residents of Northport, spanning three generations.  We received more than 500 completed questionnaires.  Per the health cluster guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the ATSDR, the results we collected from the returned questionnaires showed health clusters of brain aneurisms (23), specific cancers (65), parkinson’s disease/multiple scoliosis (13), thyroid diseases (116), and ulcerative colitis and crown’s disease (54).  The DOH had already discovered the health cluster of ulcerative colitis and crohn’s disease in the area in 1992.  All of these diseases can be triggered by chronic exposure to the heavy metal toxins released by Teck.

A doctor with Massachusetts General Hospital Crohn’s and Colitis Center conducted a study in the area. The study concluded that the rates of these diseases were 5 to 11 times higher than expected.  Based on these results an additional study is being conducted of the residents with ulcerative colitis and crohn’s, focusing on the amount of accumulated toxins found in their systems and referencing the EPA residential soil study results.

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To read more about the ongoing Crohn’s & Colitis study click here.

                                    

MOVING FORWARD    

The EPA and the State of Washington need to ensure that Teck continues to move forward with all planned remedial investigations and clean-ups promised under the agreement.  A large part of this is to reinstate air monitoring in and around Northport.

Teck recently released a statement promising to take every action necessary to clean up what they regret their industrial discharge had done to the environment and upper Columbia River.

However, they are currently trying to duck more responsibility by appealing a recent federal district court judge’s ruling that Teck may also be responsible for the contamination caused by their air emissions, not just from the toxins they discharged into our water and land.   Teck claims that under the CERCLA (Superfund) law the word “disposal”  is defined as “require(ing) that waste be first placed into or on land or water…”, not air.  Therefore,  their air emissions don’t count.

I hope their future actions speak louder to the regret they have towards the impacts they have caused to our land, water, wildlife, and to so many innocent people’s lives.

However, based on their most recent actions in court (Click here to read) it doesn’t seem likely.

– Jamie Paparich

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