My Questions to the EPA

The EPA recently explained to the community of Northport, WA, based on the EPA’s analysis of existing data they have decided not to conduct additional air monitoring in our area.

After analyzing the existing data, the EPA concluded;

  • For arsenic, the air concentration is 0.0042 ug/m3.  Although this level is higher than safety standards they felt that it would only correspond to a cancer risk of 2 in 100,000.  So, the community should be “safe”.
  • For cadmium, the air concentration is .00136 ug/m3. Although this level is also higher than safety standards they felt that it would only correspond to a cancer risk of 2 in 1 million people. So, once again, we are “safe”.

The existing data the EPA analyzed is the following:

  • All 4 Air Monitoring Studies conducted by Ecology in Northport between 1992 – 1998.
    • All four concluded that our levels of arsenic (.02ug/m3) were 100 times the safety standard and our levels of cadmium (.04) were 18 times higher than safety standards.
  • Air Data measured at a monitoring station Teck Smelter operated near Northport from 1999 – 2009.

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In 2017 The Department of Ecology conducted a preliminary review and evaluation of past air quality monitoring data from our area and consideration of potential present-day health risks. (So basically, they analyzed the same data the EPA claims to have reviewed). When Ecology realized a very important gap of data to accurately evaluate our situation they conducted an air modeling algorithm to get a more specific idea of the actual concentrations of the toxins in our air.

After analyzing the existing date Ecology concluded;

  • Some quality assurance and uncertainty issues arose in Teck’s air monitoring and reporting. Some anomalies were noted when comparing variations in PM emissions that do not correspond to variations in As, Cd, Pb, and Zn emissions. Meaning the accuracy of the emissions being reported and recorded should be called into question.
  • Another issue was the quantitation limit for sampling Arsenic was measured in a bucket of 0.01 ug/m3 to 0.39 ug/m3. Meaning any levels that fell into this category were reported as a .01 ug/m3 in concentration.  When in reality over 40% of those samples were actually closer to 0.39 ug/m3 . That means 40% of the samples had concentrations recorded as .01 when in reality those samples could have been as high as 0.39.  That would mean the actual concentration of arsenic in our air (on average) would be 0.152 ug/m3.
    • Per the EPA guidelines; if the toxin exceeds the Acceptable Source Impact Level (ASIL) it is evaluated as a risk, and additional analysis is needed, especially if the toxin falls within the Risk-Based Concentration (RBC) levels.  The ASIL for arsenic emissions is .0023ug/m3, and the RBC is .0023 ug/m3.
    • The EPA is claiming the concentration of arsenic in Northport is .0042 ug/m3. Under the EPA’s ASIL and RBC levels they would be required to gather “additional analysis” (AIR MONITORING) on the situation.  Worse yet, based on Ecology’s assessment of the data the EPA reviewed the concentration of arsenic in Northport is much more likely to be close to 0.152 ug/m3.  This is a very dangerous level to be chronically exposed to.  I think the results of our health studies (see below) are proof enough of that.
  • Due to the lack of monitors in the areas upriver from Northport to the border, and therefore the lack of data, Ecology applied a smoothing algorithm to mean concentration estimates as functions of time and downriver distance to estimate average As, Cd, and Pb concentrations.
  • The results of this algorithm concluded that between 2009 – 2014 the average level of arsenic in our air was .02 ug/m3. This is similar to the results of the other air monitoring studies done in our area in the past, and not by Teck. .02 ug/m3 is 100 times the recommended safety level.

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Results from the 2012 Northport Community Health Survey

  • 18 people, in a population of 315, had been diagnosed with cancer.  (This seems to blow EPA’s theory of the toxins we are exposed to will only correspond to a cancer risk of 2 in 100,000.)
  • 17 residents had been diagnosed with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s. 17 residents out of a community of 315.  Nationwide approximately 7 people out of 100,000 are diagnosed with UC or Crohn’s annually.
  • 23 residents had been diagnosed with either a brain aneurism or tumors.
  • 13 residents had been diagnosed with either Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis.

Since the 2012 Community Health Survey the health issues have not stopped

  • 8 more residents were diagnosed with cancer
  • 4 more residents have been diagnosed with UC or Crohn’s
  • 3 more residents have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and 1 more resident has been diagnosed with Multiple Scoliosis
In a community with a population of approximately 315 people.

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EPA also informed us after their analysis of existing data that the air data is sufficient to conduct the human health risk assessment for our area.  They stated, The EPA believes that our evaluation of the potential risk to people from outdoor air, using existing air data, is technically sound.”

My Questions to the EPA:

  • Even if our air concentration for arsenic is 0.0042 ug/m3, as Teck stated, that still exceeds the ASIL and should be evaluated as a risk, and additional analysis (AIR MONITORING) is needed, especially if the toxin falls within the Risk-Based Concentration (RBC) levels.
  • Based on Ecology’s findings, what if our air concentration for arsenic is .02ug/m3, or even 0.152 ug/m3, if Ecology’s concern of quantitation limitation on Teck’s sampling is correct?  Our arsenic and cadmium concentrations are already over the safety standards. Scientific data shows that it is very likely those concentrations are significantly higher than the EPA believes.
  • Why did you not evaluate the findings and concerns Ecology advised you of?
  • How did the EPA and The Department of Ecology reach such different conclusions based on the same information?
  • Why are so many residents in our community continuing to get sick if what the EPA is saying is true?
  • How do you plan on conducting a Human Health Risk Assessment based on this lacking, and possibly incorrect data?

The EPA had a choice.  You could have listened to the over 100 Northport residents who signed a petition asking for your help, you could have taken the recommendations of The Department of Ecology and The Tri-County Health Department to conduct a long term, multiple location air monitoring program in our area.  Instead you used limited, inaccurate, outdated data from Teck’s air monitor to conclude no additional air monitoring is needed. This means the HHRA the EPA conducts will be dangerously  inaccurate before it is even began. Do us a favor and don’t waste your time.  The HHRA will ensure we are safe, just as you are telling us we are safe now. I hope you have reason to come visit us five or ten years from now.  You can look around this very room, full of some of the same people that are here today, and explain to them why you left us in danger.  Why you not only told us we were safe, but refused us any sort of assistance to ensure we are safe….again.  The EPA stood where you are now in 1992, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2015, 2017 and now 2018.  Would you like to know how many people have either gotten sick or died from similar health issues in those 26 years?

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

Electronic Petition for Air Monitoring in Northport, WA – Please sign!!

ATTN: If you are a past or present Northport WA resident, or a resident of a community nearby, or if you simply care about the community of Northport PLEASE read the petition below. If you agree and would like to sign the petition; 

  1. Copy & paste this sentence: “This is my signature for the 2017 Northport WA Air Monitor Petition” – **along with your name, address, phone# and/or email** into the comment section below. 
  2. Hit enter- that’s it! 

It’s that simple! If you don’t want to put your personal information (address, etc.) in comment section, you can email the sentence along with your personal information instead to: northportproject@hotmail.com

Please forward this on to anyone who might be interested in signing.
PETITION:

I believe the EPA and the Washington State Department of ecology should plan and institute a comprehensive air monitoring program from Northport to the Canadian border. The program should be developed with community input, include a minimum of three monitoring stations, and continue with no predetermined termination date. 
Questions?  Email me (Jamie Paparich) directly at: northportproject@hotmail.com

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