Archive for the ‘UPPER COLUMBIA RI/FS’ Category

EPA Town Meeting in Northport – This Thursday!


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.


















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.



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.



2 accessed by Jill Schulte, 6 April 2017

3 Accessed 11 April 2017


Teck, a Canadian smelter, tries to rewrite U.S. Superfund laws to avoid liability


by:  Jamie Paparich,  Feb. 24, 2016

Teck smelter, one of the world’s largest lead and zinc smelting plants, is located in Trail, B.C. Canada.  

Since 1906 the Canadian smelter’s processing of ore creates discharge, or waste, that contain dangerous heavy metal toxins.  The smelter released these toxins into Washington state’s environment in two ways; water and air. 

Teck, located just 3 miles upriver from the Washington state border, denied any wrong doing for decades.  They reasoned that since they were operating in Canada they were not liable under U.S. CERCLA (Superfund) laws.  

Therefore, Teck felt is was Washington state’s responsibility to conduct the studies and eventual clean-up of the mess they had made.  After a decade long battle with the EPA in court, Teck ran out of options in 2012 and admitted to dumping their toxic discharge directly into the Columbia River for over a century. 

Dave Godlewski, the vice-president of environment and public affairs for Teck, stated; “Trail discharged solid effluents, or slag, and liquid effluent into the Columbia River that came to rest in Washington state, and from that material, hazardous materials….were released into the environment….” 

Dave Godlewski goes on to say; “We’ve not talked about the amount of the release. We’ve not talked about the impacts of those releases. We’ve just agreed that there has been a release in the U.S.”

Teck may not want to talk about the amount, but the research conducted on the Upper Columbia River site by The EPA, the Washington Department of Ecology, and Teck themselves has shown that between 1906 and 1995 they released approximately 9.8 million tons of slag into the river.  This slag contained 1,314,00 tons of Lead,  4,434,750 tons of Cadmium, 302,250 tons of Mercury, and 525,600,000 tons of Zinc. 

“The estimated 9.8 million tons (of slag) that (Teck) 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 has been conducting environmental studies since 2012, with oversight from the EPA.  They claim they accept responsibility for their past actions, and want to make things right.

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.  

To bring this situation into perspective it is important to understand the amount of toxins Teck released, and the damage it caused.  Between 1921 – 2005 –  Teck 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. 

The amount of sulfur dioxide Teck  was releasing in the air in 1933 reached such damaging levels that Northport farmers sued Teck (then Trail Smelter) for the damage the air emissions 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.

Several area modeling studies have been conducted of the area, showing the massive damage the air emissions have caused.  To view Click here.

Teck thinks it can escape responsibility for it’s air emissions by manipulating the wording Congress used when drafting CERCLA. Teck intentionally emitted toxins into the air, knowing very well those toxins would eventually be deposited on our land and water.  The 1933 Trail Smelter arbitration, mentioned above, is legal proof they were very aware of this, as was Canada. Yet recently Canada has said they agree with Teck’s interpretation of the U.S. law, claiming that if Teck is penalized for their air emission’s it would violate Canada’s sovereign authority, because the emissions took place on Canadian soil.

Apparently Canada does not think anything exists beyond their borders, or at least they are not liable for anything they do to these places.  Out of sight, out of mind?  

The health impacts suffered by Northport, WA residents, from decades of exposure to the Canadian smelter’s toxins, is a liability to their quality of life.  Yet they live with this responsibility everyday of their lives.   Never out of sight, never out of mind.

The hearing on Teck’s air emission appeal is scheduled for April, 2016.

2016 residential soil sampling meeting Feb. 24th, 6:30pm- Northport Cafeteria

ImageProxy | February 12, 2016

Northport open house to focus on 2016 free residential soil sampling opportunities


February 24th, 6:30 p.m., Northport School Cafeteria. Click here for flyer with details.

The Forum is hosting an open house for Upper Columbia Valley property owners to learn about eligibility and the opportunity for free soil sampling in 2016. Click here for map showing areas where soil sampling is being made available.

Representatives from EPA, Teck, WA Department of Ecology and Northeast Tri County Health District will be on hand to answer questions. The open house is timely because eligible property owners are being asked to sign-up for sampling by March 1, 2016.

Said the Forum’s Executive Director, Andy Dunau, “The Forum wants to help make sure residents have every opportunity to get their questions answered. Making the best decision for you, your family and your property should be based on receiving the best information available.”


DOH Memo on Northport Lead Screening Results



November 5, 2015

CATEGORY: News Release
RELEASE DATE: For Immediate Release
RE: Lead Screening in Northport
CONTACT: Northeast Tri County Health District

In response to concerns over elevated levels of lead in soil and possible human exposure in the Northport area, the Washington State Department of Health and the Northeast Tri-County Health District (NETCHD) collaborated to host a community blood lead testing event on October 28, 2015.

Preliminary test results suggested that a higher than expected number of people may have elevated blood lead levels. Since the test results are preliminary, follow-up testing is needed to confirm these results. People with elevated results were advised to see their doctor for confirmatory testing.

Lead is a naturally occurring metal element found in the environment. Exposure to lead may come from the past use of lead-based paint, leaded gasoline, and industrial mining, smelting, and refining. Lead is dangerous for children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do. Their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

NETCHD will be conducting follow-up case investigations to determine the possible lead exposure source for individuals who had elevated screening results. NETCHD will also be offering another community blood lead screening event in early December, 2015. That date will be announced when finalized. For more information on lead and prevention strategies, please visit or contact Matt Schanz, Environmental Health Director at 509-684-2262.

Additional Soil Sampling Planned in 2016

Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 12.41.52 AM.pngSoil sampling expands in Upper Columbia clean up

Tribune | Posted 3 weeks ago

NORTHPORT—The residential soil sampling of Upper Columbia properties potentially contaminated by Teck Cominco’s smelter in Trail, B.C. is expanding downriver to encompass an area that nearly doubles the size of that allowed in a similar 2014 study.

Teck American Incorporated will soon send out letters to property owners in both the 2014 area who declined the first study, as well as property owners in the newly added area that stretches from just upriver of Northport


approximately 15 miles downriver to China Bend.

“We don’t expect residential soil sampling to be offered over and over again,” Andy Dunau, Lake Roosevelt Forum director, said in a press release, “So it’s very important for landowners to make an informed choice now about whether to participate in this free soil sampling and to possibly be considered for free immediate action if metals are found at unsafe levels.”

As with the 2014 study, TAI and their contractors will perform the sampling studies with oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency.

This spring, TAI, EPA and contractors will conduct site visits to identify sampling locations and to develop a specific sampling plan for each property, according to the release.

Sampling will take place in fall 2016, and the results will be available in the following months.

The 2014 study sampled 74 residential properties between Northport and the U.S.-Canadian border with the objective of determining if people could be exposed to levels of lead, arsenic and other heavy metals, according the LRF.

Results from the study lead to the immediate clean up of 13 residential properties and one tribal allotment based on EPA’s Time Critical Removal Action.

A TAI contractor performed the removal with oversight from the EPA. Colville Tribes were hired for historic and cultural considerations.

Another six tribal allotments exceeded the Colville Tribes’ cleanup standards, said Environmental Trust employee Patti Bailey in November.

Seven tribal allotments will be sampled in the 2016 study, Bailey said.

The community of Marble, located within the new study zone, will also receive soil sampling at a representative subset of properties to determine typical heavy metal levels and if further sampling is needed to additional owners.

The town of Northport is not currently eligible to receive sampling as the town underwent a soil removal action program in 2004, according to LRF.

The Colville Tribes petitioned the EPA to do a clean up and assessment in the Upper Columbia River in 1999.

In 2012, Teck was found liable for intentionally discharging at least 9.97 million tons of slag, including heavy metals such as lead, zinc, mercury, cadmium, copper and arsenic, directly into the Columbia River from its smelter in Trail.

Along with the residential soil sampling, the EPA has overseen sampling of Bossburg Flats, sediment sampling off 136 sites to determine risks to sediment dwelling bugs, upland soil sampling to evaluate risks to ecological receptors in upland areas, mussel and crayfish sampling, surface water sampling between the Canadian Border and Grand Coulee Dam and beach sampling of 43 beaches.

Concerning surface water, the LRF release notes, “After three rounds of sampling the [EPA] showed Lake Roosevelt and the Upper Columbia general water quality safe for swimming. Further, surface water concentrations for all metals and organics are within limited protective of aquatic life

Upper Columbia River EPA Study Update

Upper Columbia River Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study Status Report

April 21, 2015

To view the status report of the Upper Columbia River RI/FS Status, presented by EPA Project Manager Laura Buelow and EPA Toxicologist Marc Stifelman, at the 2015 Lake Roosevelt Forum on April 21, 2015.

To view the slideshow on the status report click here:   Upper Columbia River Study Update – April, 2015

Since this update the residential soil clean-ups of Northport residents have begun.

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