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.
Archive for the ‘Teck’ Category
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.
The 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.
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”. As 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.
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.
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
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.
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
Northport 2016 BWH/Harvard
Crohn’s & Colitis Study Underway
~ Still Recruiting Participants ~
Dr. Josh Korzenik, The Director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), one of the leading IBD researchers in the country, and his team have begun their second study of the health cluster of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease diagnosed in Northport residents. Their 2011 study concluded diagnosed cases of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease in the community was 10 to 15 times higher than national standards. This was one of the largest health clusters of these illnesses Dr. Korzenik has ever seen.
The current study is a more in-depth epidemiological case-control study. The focus is in finding a possible correlation of chronic exposure to specific heavy metals and ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
The case-control study includes participants who have been diagnosed with either Crohn’s or colitis as well as participants who have not been affected. In March I asked for volunteers for this new study. The response I received was overwhelming. I provided the full list to Dr. Korzenick, however if you volunteered and have still not heard from them please call or e-mail them at: IBDresearch@bwh.harvard.edu or 617-732-9173.
It is not too late to volunteer if you haven’t. They are still recruiting participants.
The scope of this study, and the study itself, has the very likely possibility of providing groundbreaking information the scientific community is greatly lacking.
Thank you to the many past and present Northport residents who have volunteered to participate in this study.
We cannot change the past or the damage Teck’s pollution has caused, and continues to cause, to countless Northport residents. However, by participating in studies like this invaluable information on the routes and duration of exposure to specific environmental toxins have in triggering or causing these rare diseases. This could help accomplish prevention, regulatory changes, and better treatment options and cures for Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and possibly many other autoimmune diseases.
– Jamie Paparich
2016 BWH/Harvard Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis study to begin in November
In 2011 Dr. Josh Korzenik, The Director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), one of the leading IBD researchers in the country, and his team conducted a study of Northport residents through health questionnaires and medical record confirmations. He discovered a health cluster of Northport residents with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease that was 10 to 15 times higher than national standards. This was one of the largest health clusters of these illnesses he has ever seen.
The causes, and a cure, for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease have long baffled the scientific community. Northport’s historical exposure to specific heavy metal toxins may be a contributing factor to the abnormally high number of residents with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Dr. Korzenik is moving forward next month with a new epidemiological case-control study of Northport residents; focusing on a possible correlation to chronic exposure to heavy metals triggering ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
In March I asked for volunteers for this new study. Participants needed are residents diagnosed with either Crohn’s or Colitis, as well as residents who do not have either of these illnesses (a control group). I received many volunteers to participate. Thank you! However, I do not want to miss anyone who may want to participate in this ground breaking study.
If you have not already contacted me* to volunteer and you are willing to participate in this study, both diagnosed residents and non diagnosed residents, please e-mail me as soon as possible. The study begins in the next two weeks.
Contact Info: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
* If you are not sure if you contacted me already please feel free to e-mail again!
The study is simple, and will take only a few minutes of your time. You will be contacted by the research team, either by telephone or e-mail depending on your preference, to give your consent to participate in the study. A questionnaire and a kit including scissors and nail clippers to obtain hair and nail samples will be sent to your home. You will then send the packet back to the researchers, and the assays will be done at their lab.
Thank you so much to the community for your amazing support in volunteering for this much needed study!
Contact Info: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Linking Air Pollution to Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease;
A statement for Northport residents, epidemiologists, research organizations and universities on an opportunity for an epidemiological case-control study on Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis that continues to be ignored
By Jamie Paparich
Extensive studies continue to be done on human health issues linked to exposure to air pollution. It is well documented that exposure to air pollution has been a contributing factor in multiple forms of lung and heart diseases.
However, almost no studies have been done on the effects of air pollution on the gastrointestinal tract, specifically the intestines. Even though the bodies intestines absorb the majority of the toxins inhaled and ingested from air pollution.
Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the two known inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Crohn’s disease can cause inflammation throughout the entire GI tract, anywhere from the mouth to the anus. It most commonly effects the small intestines, causing chronic inflammation of the lining of the small intestines. Ulcerative colitis impacts the large intestine/colon. Colitis causes inflammation and open sores, or ulcers on the lining of the large intestine/colon. Both Crohn’s and Colitis causes severe abdominal discomfort and frequent emptying of the colon. These diseases are incurable and impacts not only the patients long term health, but also their quality of life. The scientific and medical community have been unable to discover what causes these rare diseases, which limits the treatment options.
Depending on where you are, air pollution can contain anything from fire smoke, ash, emissions from smelters, mining operations, power plants, construction sites, road construction, and automobiles…just to name a few. All air pollution contains particulate matter (PM). Particulate matter is liquid and solid particles suspended in the air that contains a mixture of the toxic pollution, the dust and pollen in your air. The particulate matter is how the toxins from pollution enter the body.
Inhalation & Dermal:
There are two sizes of particulate matter.
– PM 10: 10 microns (a millionth of a meter) in diameter or less. These are small enough to be inhaled and accumulate in the respiratory system. Many of the particles pass from the respiratory system through mucus down the GI Tract.
– PM 2.5: 2.5 microns in diameter (1/10,000 of an inch). These are so small they are inhaled into the respiratory system, but then are able to pass through the lungs into the bloodstream, and also from the respiratory tract through the GI Tract. These size particles can also be absorbed through the skin.
The particulate matter falls onto gardens, crops, the food animals ingest, water sources, and the water ways fish inhabit. In turn, we ingest the PM through those products when consumed.
NORTHPORT AIR POLLUTION
In the case of Northport, air monitoring has shown that our air contains dangerous levels (way above safety standards) of arsenic and cadmium. This is from the emissions released from the smoke stack at Teck Resource, a Canadian smelter located 3 miles upriver. The particulate matter in our pollution contains several heavy metals, not just arsenic and cadmium, because of the smelters emissions.
- Inhalation: Once particulate matter is inhaled into the respiratory tract, it is sent through the GI tract through mucocilliary clearance, eventually entering the intestines. The majority of the particulate matter inhaled into the body will end up in the intestines. Not all of these toxins are expelled from the body. Many are absorbed and accumulate into the intestinal walls. This induces systemic effects; directly effecting the epithelial cells (the barrier between toxic invaders and healthy cells lining the intestine). System inflammation then triggers immune activation. Over time, this leads to the immune system turning on the bodies good cells as well.
- Ingestion: Food and water containing PM toxins are ingested into the stomach, then passed to the intestines, where the toxins will, once again, spend the longest amount of time in the body, before being expelled from the body. The toxins not expelled will also inducing systemic effects, system inflammation, and eventually immune over stimulation.
IMMUNE SYSTEM & BIO-TOXICITY
Particulate matter alters the body’s immune system reaction. The immune system discovers and destroys disease causing organisms, viruses, and foreign agents in our bodies. The immune system kicks into overdrive due to the ingestion and inhalation of particulate matter, especially containing heavy metals. Eventually the chronic, overstimulation of the immune systems will cause chronic inflammation throughout the body, or to specific organs.
Exposure to high levels of heavy metals is an obvious concern. However, the more dangerous type of exposure is long term exposure, even to low levels. This type of exposure causes the heavy metals to slowly accumulate in the bodies organs, causing biotoxic effects. According to the research published in Heavy metal pollution and human biotoxic effects, (Duruibe, J. O. 1 *, Ogwuegbu, M. O. C. 2 and Egwurugwu, J. N. 3), “….(G)eneral signs associated with biotoxicity of (sic) cadmium, lead, arsenic, mercury, zinc, copper and aluminum poisoning: gastrointestinal (GI) disorders….”
INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE
In people with IBD, the immune system attacks the heavy metal toxins in the intestines. Because of the accumulation of heavy metals toxins, from chronic exposure to specific air pollution, some individuals immune systems go haywire, attacking the toxins and healthy cells. This eventually leads to chronic-inflammation, ulcerations, and thickening of the intestinal wall. The result of this is Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis, and likely several other auto immune health issues.
However, not all people exposed to the same level of specific heavy metal toxins will develop Crohn’s or Colitis. When the first cluster of Northport residents with either Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease was discovered in 1992 statistically 1 in 100,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with one of these IBDs. In 1992 Northport’s population was approximately 375 people, and 15 residents had been diagnosed with either Crohn’s or Colitis. In 2012 a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital’s Crohn’s and Colitis Center conducted an IBD study of Northport and confirmed 17 people had either Crohn’s or Colitis, the population in 2012 was still around 375 people. This is 11.5 to 15 times higher than the national standard.
In 1992 and 2012’s study the residents diagnosed with either Crohn’s or Colitis lived within a two mile radius of each other, in the Columbia River Valley. This valley was nicknamed “The Heavy Fallout Zone” by the EPA, due to the high levels of heavy metal toxins found in their sampling. The levels were so elevated in this area because Teck’s air emissions, full of heavy metal toxins and sulfer dioxide, would flow north down the river and become trapped in the valley. There is would settle, the particulate matter falling onto every surface below it, and being inhaled by the residents living on the little farms scattered along the banks of the river. These residents were chronically exposed to the dangerously high levels of arsenic and cadmium in the air for decades.
However, the question still remains. Why did some of these residents, living in the “heavy fallout zone”, contract Colitis or Crohn’s and some didn’t. It impacted the children who grew up in the area the most, but not all of the children. In the study; Exposure to ingested airborne pollutant particulate matter increases mucosal exposure to bacteria and induces early onset of inflammation in neonatal IL-10-deficient mice, (Salim SY1, Jovel J, Wine E, Kaplan GG, Vincent R, Thiesen A, Barkema HW, Madsen KL), the research team aimed to determine if exposure to particulate matter during the neonatal period and early-life would alter colitis in a mouse model. The team concluded “Our data suggest that early exposure to pollution particulates can result in an earlier onset of intestinal disease in genetically susceptible hosts and can alter responses to gut injury in later life.”
Scientist have not been able to discover an inheritance/genetic pattern to IBDs. Most scientists and researchers whose work is focused on Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and the GI Tract believe both genetic and environmental factors trigger the illnesses.
Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN) , Ted Schettler, M.D., M.P.H., shared his thoughts about the high occurrence of these diseases in our area; “If it is in anyway related to smelter emissions I’d wonder about changes in the intestinal micro biome as a plausible mechanism that could link metal exposure to inflammatory bowel disease.”
EPIDEMIOLOGY CASE-CONTROL STUDY
The community of Northport exceed all of the requirements to conduct an accurate epidemiological case-control study of the contribution chronic exposure to specific heavy metal toxins in air pollution has on triggering inflammatory bowel disease, as well as the impact it may specifically have on the immune system response.
The EPA is currently conducting a Human Health Risk Assessment of the area, as part of their agreement with Teck Resources in conducting remedial investigations and feasibility studies of the Upper Columbia River area and Northport. The EPA, nor Teck have any plans to monitor our air in any of the investigations or assessments. The EPA has no interest in looking at the cluster of diagnosed cases of Crohn’s or Colitis in the area, spanning three generations.
Today members of the community continue to be diagnosed with Crohn’s or Colitis, and more will continue to be diagnosed until something is done.
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.
The Original article published at Lake Roosevelt Forum, http://www.lrf.org
A three judge panel from the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that aerial deposition from the Teck smelter in Trail, Canada does not constitute “disposal.” As such, Teck cannot be held liable for hazardous substances such as lead, arsenic and mercury emitted from Trail smoke stacks that traveled through the atmosphere and then deposited in the Upper Columbia Valley. Washington State and the Colville Confederated Tribes brought the case to hold Teck liable for cleanup costs and natural resource damages under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA (also known as superfund).
The court relied heavily on two precedents that parse the meaning of “disposal of waste” under CERCLA. In one of the precedents, the ninth circuit ruled that BNSF Railway emitting diesel particulate matter into the air that resettled onto the land and water did not constitute disposal of waste and thus not subject to liability under CERCLA.
News reports indicate plaintiffs will petition for a new hearing before the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Potentially, the case could be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under terms of a 2006 settlement agreement between EPA and Teck, Teck has funded soil sampling and remediation related to atmospheric deposition in the Upper Columbia Valley. In 2014, EPA sampled 74 residential properties which led to cleanup on 14 properties. This year, 142 property owners granted access for soil sampling that begins this month.
Click here for a National Law Review article reviewing the case and its implications.