Archive for the ‘Upper Columbia River’ Category

Ecology’s Air Quality Assessment Concludes Air Monitors Needed in Northport

by Jamie Paparich

 

In 2008 I began looking into the decades of toxins the Canadian smelter, Teck, had been allowed to dispose of into Northport’s air, water and soil, literally slowly poisoning us.  The further I looked into it the more disillusioned I became with our Government agencies, specifically the EPA, the ATSDR, and the DOH.  There was one agencies that surprised me.

 

The WA State Dpt. of Ecology represents the state of Washington in working with Tribal, federal, and local government organizations who are addressing imageslong-term concerns over the smelter’s contamination, on cleanup and community outreach.

 

Ecology has conducted eleven independent studies in our area evaluating smelter contamination between 1992 through 2017.  The Dpt. of Ecology surprised me because their studies were scientifically, technically, and logically well thought out and conducted with total accuracy.  The most significant difference between Ecology’s studies, as compared to the other agencies, was simple; they were ethical and honest. They did not slant their results, or blame “data gaps” as a recurring reason as to why their studies could not be completed, and they did not manipulate the wording to make it seem the results of their research was not something Northport residents, Teck, or their own agencies should be concerned with; referring to Northport as an “intermediate health hazard”.

 

Ecology’s study conclusions statethe facts, the actual levels of toxins found, and the danger the levels found of arsenic, cadmium and lead in our air and soil could likely put the residents of Northport in danger.

 

Ecology has proven again and again they worked for us, to protect us.

 

In the 4 air monitoring studies they conducted between 1992-1998 each of the studies concluded that levels of arsenic and cadmium were consistently found to be way above the Acceptable Source Impact Level (ASIL) set by the EPA.   Ecology provided their findings to the EPA because Ecology conducted these studies to provide the EPA with information as to whether or not they should allow Teck a renewed air permit for a new source (Kivcet smelter.)  Although Ecology’s results provided accurate reasons not to allow Teck a new air permit.  Instead, the EPA approved the new permit and Ecology’s air monitoring results were never discussed or shared with anyone, including the residents being impacted by the air.

 

In 2007 Ecology sampled sediments in Lake Roosevelt and the upper Columbia River.  Their results concluded that widespread industrial slag could forensically be tied to Teck Resources, and that it had contaminated the soil and water from Lake Roosevelt, up through the Columbia River to the Canadian border.  In 2006 Teck, under the supervision of the EPA, began a remedial investigation of the area.  The study is still ongoing.  What the EPA and Teck have been able to accomplish from an eleven year study is not a fraction of what Ecology’s 2007 study accomplished.

 

In 2012 Ecology conducted soil and sediment sampling in upland, non residential areas.  Teck, and the EPA, were conducting similar testing.  The levels of lead, arsenic, zinc, cadmium and mercury Ecology discovered were so high they petitioned the EPA to fast track sampling of residential soil, fearing residents exposed to these heavy metals at levels this high, specifically children, were in more danger than originally thought.

 

The EPA pushed Ecology’s petition through and Teck conducted sampling of 74 properties in 2014 and removed contaminated soil from 14 residential properties and 1 tribal allotment in 2015.  In 2016 they began a second round of residential property soil sampling.  The results of this sampling has not been published.    This would not have been accomplished without Ecology.

 

Residents of Northport have long worried that it is the air that continues to trigger the several, rare health issues a large majority of residents have been diagnosed with.  When Teck began their remedial investigation, under EPA supervision, we requested air monitoring again and again.  It was always pushed to the back burner, or we were told there was no funding, or no evidence to support more monitoring was needed….even though the monitoring done of the air by Ecology between 1992-1998 showed levels of arsenic 200 times higher than safety standards, and levels of cadmium were 18 times higher than safety standards.

 

In working with the Citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC), Ecology listened to our concerns and agreed with them.  They explained that there were so many old studies to go through, dating as far back as 1931, and so many missing years not monitored, that it would be a difficult analysis to conduct.  After discovering Teck had an air monitor in Northport from 1992 – 2009 they requested those monitoring results. They then collected results of air monitoring Teck had collected near the Canadian border from 2007-2014.  Armed with studies done on our air in 1931, from 1992 through 2007, and the border monitoring through 2014, Ecology asked their Air Quality Program specialists to use this data to evaluate conditions in the upper Columbia River valley and assess whether more air monitoring is needed.

 

Based on there assessment, they concluded additional air monitoring in the upper Columbia River valley is necessary. 

 

Ecology will now share their analysis with the EPA and Teck, requesting additional air monitoring be done as a part of their remedial investigation evaluating the smelter-related pollution impacts done to our environment and health.

 

If the EPA and Teck agree to this Ecology would work with the EPA and public health officials to further assess health concerns once the additional monitoring is performed and data is collected. Ecology expects EPA would use the data to inform a human health risk assessment.

 

Without this data the human health risk assessment the EPA is required to conduct of the area would be no different than the assessments the DOH and the ATSDR conducted in 2004, invaluable, inaccurate, and a waste of more time and money.

 

Northport residents who continue to be diagnosed with the rare, similar health issues that plagued the two generations before them do not have any more time to waste.

 

A special thank you to The Washington State Department of Ecology, specifically John Roland and Chuck Gruenenfelder

“An underdog never loses, they find a different way to win the fight.”

– Unknown

Teck Smelter – Timeline of Pollution

A CENTURY OF EVIDENCE

Teck is one of the world’s largest lead and zinc smelters, located in Trail, B.C. Canada. This timeline of Teck Smelter’s pollution and accidental spills was created using data from their records and documentation of events, as well as data from The Canadian B.C. Environment Ministry and the United State’s Environmental Protection Agency.  

The below timeline does not include many of the accidental detailed air emission releases.   These emissions continues to exceed U.S. Safety Standards.  To read more about the air emissions click on the air monitoring tab across the top of the home page.

  • 1906 –   Production begins at the Trail Smelter (now Teck) in Trail, B.C. Canada.
  • 1916 –    Trail’s releasing  a monthly output of 4,700 tonnes of sulphur dioxide through air emissions.
  • 1920 –    Due to World War I the smelter’s output drastically accelerated, increasing output of sulphur dioxide to 10,000 tonnes a month.
  • 1921-2005 –  Trail’s estimate of total annual air emissions (containing zinc, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury) was 600,000 tonnes.
  • 1931 –    Trail’s fuming furnace processed 150,000 tonnes of blast furnace slag.  (Slag is the by-product of the smelting process and is a sand like material that contains heavy metal toxins.)
    • Trail’s operations expanded to include the manufacturing of ammonium sulfate and ammonium phosphate fertilizer.
  • 1933 –  Farmers from Northport sue the Trail Smelter for damages the smelter’s air pollution (sulfur dioxide) caused to their stock and crops.
  • 1940 –  Teck Cominco (formerly Trail Smelter) is admittedly dumping up to 1000 tonnes of heavy metal toxins (slag) into the river daily, including 3.6 tonnes of mercury a year.

**  The explanation given to us regarding the gap of missing information/documentation from 1940 to 1980 was an inability to locate the 40 years of documentation, possibly due to a warehouse fire.

  • 1980 to 1996 –  Records show the average amount of slag Teck dumps from mid 1980’s through 1996 is 450 tonnes a day
  • 1980 –   Accidental releases into Air/River:  15 tonnes of sulfuric acid released from smoke stack, 7 tonnes of mercury released into the Columbia River (River), 500 gallons of ammonia hydrosulfide, 30 tonnes of sulfuric acid, 24 tonnes of sulfuric acid released into the River.
  • 1981 – Accidental releases in the River:  9.5 tonnes of zinc, 9.5 tonnes of sulfuric acid, 4000 gallons ammonia hydrosulfide, 93 tonnes of sulfuric acid.  
    • A memo, from Canada’s B.C. Environment Ministry, estimates Teck has been dumping up to 20 pounds of mercury a day into the river for an unknown amount of years.
  • 1982 – Accidental releases in the River:  6,330 pounds of mercury.
    • Teck does not report the massive spill to Canadian Authorities for 5 weeks. Once the Canadian Ministry notifies the United States authorities no action is taken, neither to warn residents in communities or tribes along the river, or an environmental investigation. The Canadian Ministry files a lawsuit against Teck. The smelter eventually pleads guilty and pays a $5000 fine to Canada’s B.C. Environment Ministry.
  • 1983 – 1986No recorded spills 
  • 1987  Accidental releases in the River: 15 tonnes of sulfuric acid.

  • 1988   Accidental releases in the River: 5 tonnes of zinc.

  • 1989 – Accidental releases in the River:  Amount “unknown” of Arsenic (July 17th), amount “unknown” of gypsum & phosphuric acid, (July 16th), neutral thickener – 60,000 liters, “yellow substance” – 305 meters long. 

  • 1990 – Accidental releases in the River: 31 gallons of mercury “unknown” amount of zinc (Sept. 4th), 300-400 gallons of sulfuric acid.  (Teck’s spill of 300-400 gallons of concentrated sulfuric acid is not reported until 14 hours after time of spill because, according to the B.C. Environment Incident Report, the plant’s alarm did not sound.)

  • 1991 – Accidental releases in the River: .16 mg/l of cadmium, .08 mg/l mercury, 289 mg/l of lead, 29.8 mg/l of zinc, 4.55 tonnes of sulfuric acid, 9.4 tonnes of phosphoric acid, 6.7 tonnes of phosphates, 50 tonnes of partially “treated” slag, and 50 tonnes of furnace oil.
    • Teck violates their waste management permit with a spill of zinc and cadmium. They plead guilty and agree to pay $40,000 towards a Canadian river study. Teck’s toxins impact only approximately 3 miles of the Columbia River before crossing into the United States.  However, the $40,000 study stopped at the Canadian border.
  • 1992 –  Accidental releases in the River:  132,000,000 mg/l of mercury, 214,000,000 mg/l of zinc, 476 gallons of sulfuric acid, 1.5 tonnes of phosphoric acid, 75 gallons of ammonium bisulphite.
    • Teck records indicate, on average, dumping 200 tonnes of sulfuric acid a day into the river. Their Canadian discharge permits allow this, the United States has access to these documents and the right to issue a stop, the United States never requests to see any documents.
  • 1993 –  Accidental releases in the River:  “unknown” amount of arsenic, “unkonwn” amount of cadmium, 25,000,000 mg/l of mercury, 600,000,000 mg/l of zinc, 13,000 tonnes of sulfuric acid.
    • Teck also reports an accidental spill of a large amount of sediment containing arsenic and cadmium.
    • A memo from Canadian regulators to Teck says a better river monitoring system needs to be installed.
    • Richard Dalosse, the Regional Environment Manager, also sends an internal memo to his supervisors. In it he says; “If we fail to ensure accurate monitoring of this discharge, it is possible that we could be held civilly or criminally liable.”
  • 1994 – Accidental releases in the River: .22 tonnes and “unknown” amount of arsenic, .21 tonnes of cadmium, 2,000,000 mg/l of mercury (16 exceedences for the year), 1.50 mg/l of lead, “unknown” amount of zinc, 3.5 billion mg/l of ammonia.
    • A Canadian river study, conducted under the “Columbia River Integrated Environmental Monitoring Program”, is published. It states that a significant amount of heavy metal toxins were found in river sediments south of Trail (Waneta & Northport, Washington.
  • 1995 – Accidental releases in the River 12,500,000 mg/l of arsenic, 186,000,000 mg/l of cadmium, 8,190,000 mg/l of mercury, 63,800,000 mg/l of lead, 2.5 tonnes of zinc, 1000 gallons of sulfuric acid.  (The accidental spill of 1000 gallons of sulfuric acid is reported by the smelter. Per their records the accident was attributed to “lack of attention” on part of a worker.)
    • An internal BC Ministry memo states that the ongoing mercury spills by the smelter “…..are of serious concern due to the persistence & bio accumulative nature (of mercury)”
  • 1996 – Accidental releases in the River:  640,000,000 mg/l of arsenic, 4,760,000 mg/l of cadmium, 30,000 mg/l of mercury, 30,000 mg/l of lead, 2.3 tonnes of zinc, 75 tonnes of slag.
    • Teck records show an average daily ALLOWED discharge of: 40 pounds of lead, 135 pounds of cadmium, 9 pounds of mercury and more than 16,000 pounds of zinc.
    • Teck halts the practice of dumping slag into the river, (not including the 75 tonnes spilled accidentally that year). Teck begins storing the slag, later selling it to the concrete industry.
  • 1997 – Accidental releases in the River3 tonnes of cadmium, 3 tonnes of mercury, 1.4 tonnes of lead, 500,000,000 mg/l of zinc.
    • The Colville Confederate Tribe completes a study regarding the impact of Teck’s century of discharging heavy metal toxins may have had on their environment and human health.
    • The reports concludes that between 1994-1997 Teck’s discharges of arsenic, cadmium and lead equal more than the discharges of ALL the lead and zinc smelters combined through-out the United States.
  • 1998 – Accidental releases in the River:  73,360,000 mg/l of arsenic, 26,000,000 mg/l of cadmium, 177,000,000 mg/l of zinc, 3.4 tonnes of slag.  (Although Teck claims no slag has been released into the river since 1996.)
  • 1999 – Accidental releases in the River:  29.04 mg/l of cadmium, 271,000,000 mg/l of zinc, “unknown” amount of contaminated water.
  • 2000 – Accidental releases in the River:  14,200,000 mg/l of cadmium, 350,000,000 mg/l of zinc.
  • 2001 –  Accidental releases in the River:  1,923 pounds of mercury, 529,700,000 mg/l of zinc.

**  Teck’s records show 86 accidental spills between 1987-2001, the spills listed above are the only ones that documentation could be found on.

  • 2004–  Records, released by the Canadian B.C. Ministry, estimate that Teck has been dumping approximately 1.6 tonnes – 3.6 tonnes of mercury annually into the river since 1940.
  • 2008 –  Teck records a spill of 2,068 pounds of lead and 420 quarts of acid
  • 2010 –  Teck spills approx. 15,000,000 mg/l of mercury into the river when there is a leak while employees are working on pipes at the facility.
  • 2014 –  Teck reports a spill of 12,000 and 25,000 liters of a sodium hydroxide solution

Between 1921 – 2005  Teck released;  38,465 tonnes of Zinc,  22,688 tonnes of Lead,  1,225 tonnes of Arsenic,  1,103 tonnes of Cadmium, and  97 tonnes of Mercury through their air emissions.

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

“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)

The accidental spills the smelter has had over the years were eventually reported to the US Agencies by the Canadian B.C. Environment Ministry.  However in every reported case neither the Canadian Ministry, nor the United States Health Department (DOH), or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informed any of the communities, located just a few miles down river.

Under their own guidelines this is a criminal act of negligence.

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BWH/Harvard Northport IBD Study to begin next month

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:  jamie_paparich@hotmail.com   or  northportproject@hotmail.com

* 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:  jamie_paparich@hotmail.com   or  northportproject@hotmail.com

Teck’s “dissapointment” is disgraceful

Sept. 9, 2016

By  Jamie Paparich

Last month a U.S. District Court Judge ruled Teck, a Canadian smelter, must pay the Confederated Tribes of the Colville (Washington) Reservation $8.25 million in reimbursement of the Tribe’s legal expenses that have mounted in the two decade long legal battle with the smelter.  The battle was over the millions upon millions of heavy metal toxins Teck admittedly dumped into the Columbia River for over a century.

Teck responded to this ruling, stating it was “disappointed.”  A spokesman for Teck said that the smelter has already spent over $75 million on human health risk assessments and environmental investigations of the Upper Columbia River, as part of the agreement they reached with the EPA.

In 1999 the EPA issued a unilateral order, forcing the smelter to cooperate in the studies and clean-up of the Upper Columbia River.  Teck fought this agreement, spending millions of dollars in legal fees, until 2006.  They finally began their investigation into the area in 2008, insisting on redoing studies the EPA had already completed.  The studies, assessments and clean-ups they have completed have been less than earth shattering.  As a matter of fact most of them appear to be more for good PR then for the people and the land.  If they have spent $75 million so far the majority of that money was likely spent on attorney fees for the countless appeals they have filed trying to get out of their responsibilities. 

The company also stated that they have invested $1.5 billion upgrading the smelter, in an attempt to be in regulation with their environmental permits.

I am having a difficult time sympathizing with the financial burden Teck feels has been placed upon them.  If they want to talk numbers how about these numbers; 

  • Between 1906 thru 1995 Teck dumped 58, 611, 000 tons of heavy metal toxins into our river, our beaches, our land, and our lives.   
  • Between 1982 thru 2016 over 240 Northport residents have been diagnosed with similar, rare, auto immune diseases linked to chronic heavy metal exposure. 
  • 23 residents have suffered, or died, from brain aneurisms, the majority of those 23 people lived in a 2-3 mile radius.
  • 110 residents passed away from one of four cancers often diagnosed in the community, and also linked to chronic heavy metal exposure.

If Teck is disappointed in the $8.25 million they have to pay to the Colville Tribes maybe they should take a moment and add up our numbers.

Sign Petition to Deny Teck’s Air Emissions Appeal

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

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

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

_________________________________________________________________

Petition to Deny Teck Resource’s Air Emissions Appeal

 

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

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

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

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

EPA project manager Laura Buelow stated, “(T)he data shows that the soil became contaminated from historical smelting operations at the Trail smelter, specifically the metals coming out of the smelter stacks (air).”

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

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

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

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

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

DATE: ________________________

SIGNATURE (typed):  ___________________________

ADDRESS: ___________________________________

E-MAIL:  _____________________________________

EPA ANSWERS NORTHPORT QUESTIONS: Property Values, Livestock, Air & Water Quality

Recently I received questions from a concerned Northport resident regarding land value, livestock permits, economic value, and air and water quality;  in reference to the EPA/Teck Upper Columbia Studies and Clean-up.

I forwarded those questions along to our EPA Project Manager, Laura Buelow. Laura, Kay Morrison, (Community Involvement Coordinator), and Marc Stifelman, (EPA Toxicologist), responded to these questions. I found both the questions and answers informative and wanted to share them for any other interested Northport residents.

Below are the questions submitted from the Northport resident, and the EPA’s answers.

 

LAND VALUE
Q:   How does this affect the value of the land for taxes, finance, appraisals, selling?

A:   The Steven’s County assessor is a good place to start, also check with your realtor or John Cochran. John is our contact on the Washington Realtor’s Association (http://www.warealtor.org/ )

Q:   Are people having problems selling land due to the contamination?

A:   We have heard that property is being sold, but don’t have any details past that.

Q:   Is there a land conservation group willing to purchase the land at fair market value?

A:   Kay did a search on the term “land conservation groups in Washington state” and found a lot of information that residents may want to look into. We don’t currently have a relationship with any land conservation group. Here are a few of the links residents might try, as well as this google search:

https://www.google.com/#q=land%20conservation%20groups%20in%20washington%20state

http://www.landscope.org/washington/programs/wa_programs/

http://iwjv.org/partner-state/washington-state-conservation-partnership

Q:   How can you sell the land if there is contamination – are we liable for the contamination for the next owner?  Who pays for the testing?  Who is responsible for the clean up now and in the future?

A:   EPA will not hold residents liable for this contamination. Washington has disclosure requirements that can be found on the state’s website:
REAL PROPERTY TRANSFERS — SELLERS’ DISCLOSURES
The testing is being paid for by Teck American, Inc as part of the remedial investigation/feasibility study. The testing in 2016 will be conducted by Teck and their contractor, with oversight by EPA. The soil clean ups that were performed in 2014 were paid for by Teck and conducted by Teck’s contractors with oversight by EPA. If additional soil clean ups are necessary, the landowner will not be responsible for the cost.

Q:   Future clean up – how many years for re-testing? Who pays for the testing and clean up in the future?

A:   We’ll determine if, and where, additional areas need to be sampled based on the 2016 study. We can’t guarantee that we’ll do another round of testing, and we don’t have additional residential soil sampling scheduled out past 2016.

Q:   Is the ground becoming contaminated via air – water?

A:   EPA believes the data shows that the soil became contaminated from historic smelting operations at the Trail smelter, specifically the metals coming out of the smelter stacks (air). The smelter has been in operation since the 1890s. In the 1990s, the smelter went through a major improvement and the air emissions significantly decreased. We have received requests from the community to perform air monitoring and we are looking into the existing data to determine if additional air monitoring is necessary for the remedial investigation/feasibility study. Our focus right now is getting residential properties sampled.

ECONOMIC

Information: These are good questions for the Washington State University extension office for Stevens County – their website is http://ext100.wsu.edu/stevens/
 
From the web site:
“Washington State University Stevens County Extension connects the people of Stevens county to the research and knowledge bases of the state’s land grand research university providing solutions to local problems and stimulating local economies.  Our county-based educators work with partners in your communities to provide educational programs and leverage the broad resources of a major university to resolve issues and create a positive future for the residents of Stevens county.”

Q:   Can we produce and sell food/livestock raised on contaminated field?  I read that we have to get a special permit for that?

A:   Individual soil sampling results would need to be discussed specifically with Laura Buelow, EPA Project Manager (buelow.laura@epa.gov).

Q:   If so, does the produce/livestock have to be tested?

        A:   See above

AIR & WATER QUALITY
Q:   How often is either tested?  How do we get theses tested?

A:   Air was last tested in the U.S. by Ecology in the 1990s. Teck monitors air in Trail and we are working to get as much of that data as possible. Several studies have been completed under the remedial investigation/feasibility study. We have sampled river water, beaches, fish, sediment, and soil. The results of each study are compiled as Data Summary Reports and listed at this website: http://www.ucr-rifs.com/ The website is run by Teck specifically for this study and has more background information. EPA’s most recent fact sheet that gives a summary of everything done to date is here: https://www3.epa.gov/region10/pdf/sites/ucr/fact_sheets/UCR_Site_Invest_SU_Nov_14.pdf

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Q:   How can the community develop future economic bases?  How can we draw companies here?

A:   This is outside the scope of our work at this stage of the study. There is an organization called the Tri-County Economic Development District (http://tricountyedd.com/ ) that serves Northeast Washington – Ferry, Pend Oreille, and Stevens Counties.

Q:   What studies are being done on the wildlife and vegetation and the affects of the pollution has on them?  Forest health?

A:   The ecological risk assessment is part of the RI/FS and it will determine if there is any issues with the plants and animals.

Q:   There seems to be a lot of studies done at universities – are any doing studies here?

A:   Contact Jamie Paparich at The Northport Project: northportproject@hotmail.com

Q:   How many groups are involved with this?  Coordination?  Meeting Schedules?  Funding?  Accountability?

A:   EPA and Teck signed a Settlement Agreement in 2006, which is a legal contract that sets out how the study will be conducted. Teck funds all of the work. EPA also has an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington Department of Ecology, the Colville Tribe, and the Spokane Tribe to participate and provide input on all of the sampling plans and documents. Teck funds these parties as well. There is also the Citizen’s for a Clean Columbia (the CCC). They have a technical advisor and Teck funds the time for the advisor. EPA has had community meetings in Northport approximately every 6-8 months for the last 3 years, mostly focused on the soil sampling.

Here is a link to EPA’s page with legal / enforcement documents, including the 2006 agreement:  https://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/CLEANUP.NSF/UCR/Enforcement

Q:   Is there a early warning system in place that goes out to the residents when pollutants are released in the river?  Like a reverse 911.

A:   Ecology receives the notice of spills from the Trail smelter.

Q:   How come the fines Teck pays to Canada for environmental discharges are not distributed to the US?

A:   I’m not sure what these fines would be. Teck is paying to all of the remedial investigation/feasibility study.

 

Runaway Train

Small communities through-out the United States are slowly, and unknowingly, being poisoned.  The poisons are unavoidable.  The residents are exposed to them from the air and dust they breath, the water they drink, the soil they grow gardens in, and the small particulate matter that they absorb through their skin.  There is no where to hide, and even if there were they aren’t even aware of the danger they should be hiding from. The question is, perhaps they are better off not knowing?

Industrial pollution is nothing new.  To a small community the benefits usually outweigh the cost.  These industries bring hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs to their community.  They bring with them a promise of a better future.  A promise of job security, retirement, 401k’s, insurance.  They also bring with them their pollution.  Industrial pollution is an unavoidable consequence that we have been aware of since the Industrial Revolution began in 1840.  For well over a century the damage the toxic by-products of these industries were basically ignored.  There was very little evidence that the pollution was causing effects to people’s health or the environment.  By the time enough scientists, environmentalists, and personally affected advocates took notice the problem was like an oncoming, out of control train with no brakes.  Stopping it would take a miracle, ignoring it would eventually cause a disaster unlike any we had ever seen.

The Government saw the train coming, so they attempted to slow it down.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established on December 2, 1970.  Once the EPA fully understood the depth of the damage they were dealing with more government agencies were formed, specifically the Department of Health (DOH).  The amount of locations and the severity of the damage industrial polluters had created was simply unmanageable.  In 1980, in an attempt to hold these polluters financially responsible for the clean-up of these sites, a federal law was passed.  The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).  In 1986 The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA) was also passed.  CERCLA & SARA gave the EPA the resources to establish and begin remediation of Superfund sites, locations throughout the U.S. so contaminated they require long-term investigations and millions of dollars of remediation to effectively clean up the hazardous materials.

Almost all Superfund sites are located near communities impacted by the toxins from the site.  The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was created to assist the EPA with the hundreds of health consultations of impacted communities at Superfund sites needed.  It appeared the Government’s attempt to at least slow down the train was working, in theory.

My family is from Northport, Washington. We were one of those communities blissfully ignorant that we were slowly being poisoned. Northport is located in northeast Washington, 12 miles from the Canadian border.  It is a breathtaking little town, situated on the banks of the mighty Columbia River.  It is a small, close knit community of 375 people.  Many of the residents are from the families of the town’s original settlers.   

For over 100 years the residents of Northport have been, and continue to be, poisoned by the heavy metal toxins released by Teck, a lead and zinc smelter in Trail B.C. Canada.  The discharge from Teck’s smelting process is referred to as slag.  Slag is a black, sand like material that contains arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.  From 1906 – 1996 Teck disposed of their slag through two specially designed pipes that dumped it directly into the Columbia River, 3 miles upriver from Northport.  Teck’s records indicate they dumped approximately 9.8 million tons of slag into the river over the course of 90 years. 

The air emissions from Teck’s smelting process are released from two smoke stacks. Teck increased the height of these smoke stacks shortly after a lawsuit brought against them in 1933. Two farmers from Northport sued Teck for damages to their crops and cows, caused by the massive amount of sulfur dioxide Teck was releasing from the smoke stacks.  Statements from residents at the time recall the suffocating smell of the sulfur dioxide, paint peeling off cars, barb wire fences disintegrating, and farm animals falling over dead.  Teck eventually lost the suit and was told to find a way to drastically reduce their emissions of sulfur dioxide.  In an attempt to comply, but avoid financial loss, they raised the height of the smoke stacks.  Their theory was their air pollution would be dispersed high enough as to not cause damage to the environment below.  Unfortunately the increased height of the smoke stacks actually dispersed the pollution further.  This pollution often got trapped in the valley in Northport, giving the farms located in the valley the nickname of “the heavy fallout zone”.  All four Department of Ecology air monitoring studies done in Northport between 1992-1994 concluded levels of arsenic and cadmium were well above all safety standards.  Arsenic levels were 200 times higher than recommended safety levels.

The EPA conducted a site assessment of the area between 1999-2003.  They found it was so contaminated it fell under CERCLA, or the Superfund guidelines. A remedial investigation and feasibility study was planned. 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.  Until two members from the Colville Confederated Tribe filed a civil suit 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.  There has been a clean-up of a beach and many residential soil clean-ups.

However, despite the data of contamination collected from the EPA investigations, and the multiple health issues reported by the residents, the DOH and the ATSDR did not think the health issues and exposure to the heavy metal toxins were linked.  In 2004 the ATSDR published their Public Health Assessment of Northport.  In it they stated “ATSDR’s conclusions are based on the environmental sampling and health outcome data that were available to ATSDR between 1995 and 1999. With few exceptions, these data showed no evidence of adverse health effects associated with exposure to environmental contaminants, but significant data gaps existed.”

When an established government agency tells you their is no evidence of health issues caused by your exposure to confirmed environmental toxins that should be a relief.  It was a relief, to many people.  However, the extremely high rate of rare illnesses and diseases diagnosed in three generations, of a town of approximately 350 people, still weighed on the community member’s minds.  The discussion of the illnesses died down a bit after the report.  Until the next diagnosis was made, and another, and then another.

Residents in Northport decided to conduct 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 CDC and 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 crohn’s disease (54).   According to the ATSDR’s ToxGuide, the EPA’s toxicity profiles, and the DOH’s toxic standards, chronic exposure to the heavy metal toxins released by Teck can be linked to all of these health issues.

The DOH and the ATSDR had already discovered the health cluster of ulcerative colitis and crohn’s disease in the area in 1992 and 2004, but they claimed there was no way to link the extremely rare diseases to our exposure to the heavy metal toxins of concerns the EPA identified.   

After publishing the results of our community health survey a doctor with Massachusetts General Hospital’s Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation contacted us.  He conducted his own study on the reported cases of ulcerative colitis and crohn’s 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 disease, focusing on the amount of accumulated toxins found in their systems and referencing the EPA residential soil study results.

I recently contacted the regional director of the ATSDR, Rhonda Kaetzel, and Kay Morrison with the WA DOH, regarding the Government agencies unwillingness to go forward with a human health assessment of Northport. The Canadian smelter has admitted fault for the pollution, and the environmental testing confirms the specific heavy metal toxins found above standard safety levels.  Armed with this information, it would seem our little town of 375 people would be ideal for several epidemiological research studies on the many health clusters discovered.  Many of the illnesses reported do not have cures, and what causes them has yet to be discovered.  In part, Ms. Kaetzel, the ATSDR director, responded with: “…DOH has communicated in the past that establishing a new link between a disease and environmental contaminant is not something that can be achieved without studying a large population of people with the disease and who have diverse exposures. Without a well-established link or specific funding, this type of research study is beyond the scope of the ATSDR-funded program within DOH and ATSDR.  Ms. Morrison’s response was more apologetic, in it she stated: “I understand that you’d like more research to be done to discover links between environmental contaminants and a number of reported illnesses in the Northport area.  Unfortunately EPA and ATSDR do not perform this kind of broad research….”

Chronic exposure to even low levels of heavy metal toxins cause health issues, the ATSDR, DOH, and EPA admit this.  The lack of knowledge on the actual health effects triggered or caused by this exposure are not well understood by these agencies due to the lack of long term investigations.  However, if they would utilize our established environmental history, and bio-monitoring of the impacted residents, a great deal might be learned.

Time and time again all of the Government agencies created to protect us have told me that our communities health issues are “beyond the scope” of their responsibilities.  So if it is none of these agencies responsibilities to protect future generations from the health issues possibly caused by long term exposure to low levels of these toxins, whose responsibility is it?

Maybe these agencies just assume it is better off not knowing.  Let someone else jump in front of that train.

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