Archive for the ‘TECK SMELTER’ Category

“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.”

FullSizeRender[7]

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. 

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 Town Meeting in Northport – This Thursday!

meeting

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

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