Posts Tagged ‘Ecology Northport Air Monitoring’

EPA won’t help Northport, leaving towns fate in the hands of the State of WA

(By Colin Haffner/Chewelah Independent)

Agency feels risk from outdoor air in Northport is low…

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has denied a request to restart air quality testing downwind of one of the world’s largest lead and zinc smelters and refineries in Canada. This leaves the State of Washington in search of financing to conduct the testing on its own, according to The Spokesman Review.

Teck Resources Ltd., located in Trail, British Columbia, is situated just 20 miles north of Northport, WA, and per the Spokesman’s May 5 article, more than 100 local residents filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency to install air monitors between the town and the Canadian border.

The petition was sent last December. Signers of the petition, including residents, the Northport Project and citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC) are asking for three long -term air monitors in and around Northport in order to help address concerns over health related issues experienced by residents.

Jamie Paparich is one of the key organizers behind the Northport Project. In an April article run by the Chewelah Independent, Paparich told the publication, “Residents believe that the air is the culprit behind the many health clusters in our small community. Studies have been conducted showing chronic exposure to elevated ambient arsenic and cadmium causes damage to the immune system and gastrointestinal tract. All of our health issues are auto immune related, and the biggest health cluster of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease is linked directly to the gastrointestinal tract. A study Harvard conducted of our community showed cases of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s to be diagnosed 11.5 to 18 times higher in Northport than anywhere else in the County. Residents continue to be diagnosed. I know of two residents who have been already diagnosed this year.”

Concern of the effects from the Teck smelter on human health has been ongoing for many years. Monitoring by the state in the 1990s showed arsenic and cadmium levels were well beyond acceptable safety standards.

In 2016, the Colville Confederated Tribes won an $8.25 million lawsuit against Teck after the company admitted dumping nearly 10 million tons of slag into the Columbia River between 1930 and 1995.

Recent state models show that the smelter could be sending the highest known airborne levels of arsenic and lead over the border into Washington, Oregon and Idaho, The Spokesman stated.

Monitoring is estimated to cost the State Department of Ecology about $300,000. Brook Beeler, an ecology spokeswoman, said they will look into raising the funds through grants or other agency funding, according to the Spokesman.

The state models were based off six years of data from 2009 to 2014 using the British Columbia government’s projections of heavy metal levels crossing the border.

2009 was the last time air quality was monitored on the Washington side of the border.

Since the mid-1990s, Teck has spent over $1.5 billion on improvements to their smelter, the Spokesman stated, reducing emissions by more than 99 percent, according to Chris Stannell, a spokesman for Teck. Stannell contends the smelter already follows many pollution controls required by the Canadian government, and there are air quality stations situated just 7km (4.35 miles) from the Washington-Canadian border.

Stannell noted to the Independent in April, “air quality is monitored 24 hours a day for metals (including lead) and sulphur dioxide at a variety of locations throughout the Trail area and the operation is in full compliance with all provincial and federal regulations relating to air emissions.”

In the Spokesman article, it was stated that data showed that the average levels of lead and arsenic were many times higher than the next highest reading in the Northwest which was taken in Seattle’s industrial area. The heavy metals in those emissions could pose an increase in serious long-term health risks such as cancer, though short-term effects pose little risk.

Despite all the data, EPA officials do not believe additional monitoring is needed. “From our evaluation of data collected in 1999 to 2009, we believe that the risk to you from the outdoor air in Northport is low,” Cami Grandinetti, a manager in the EPA’s remedial cleanup program, wrote in an April letter and went on to state with additional improvements at the smelter, “we expect current day operations to be even lower,” the Spokesman said.

AIR MONITORING IN NORTHPORT: PART II

Summary of Ecology’s Northport Air Quality Studies, Phases I – IV, (1992-1998) 

 

ECOLOGY/EPA  ACRONYMS

Screening Acronyms used by Ecology and EPA in testing certain heavy metal toxins:

    • Acceptable Source Impact Level (ASIL): Toxins must be found at or below the ASIL set by the EPA based on Standard ambient air background levels throughout the State.
    • Risk Based Specific Concentration Level (RSC): Toxins found at or above the RSC set by the EPA are considered high enough to pose as a risk to the environment and human health.

ARSENIC SAFETY/RISK LEVELS SET BY EPA:

  • The ASIL:  .00023 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3)
  • The RSC:  0.0023 ug/m3

CADMIUM SAFETY/RISK LEVELS SET BY EPA:

  • The ASIL:  .00056 ug/m3
  • The RSC:  0.1164 ug/m3

 

 

PHASE I:   Dec. 15, 1992 – Feb. 13, 1993

• Five air monitors installed

• 100 samples of particulate matter (PM) collected and analyzed for lead, arsenic, and    particulate matter.

PHASE II:   Aug. 10, 1993 – Oct. 30, 1993

• Seven air monitors installed

• The particulate filters were scanned for 30 toxic metals, cadmium, zinc, antimony, lead, copper, arsenic, and manganese.

• Computer Modeling conducted to better “understand the probable sources of pollutants…”

RESULTS:  Phase I & Phase II

ARSENIC

Arsenic exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in both phases.

    • Phase I – maximum arsenic level detected:  .25 ug/m3
    • Phase II – maximum arsenic level detected: 0.1164 ug/m3

CADMIUM (*Cadmium was only tested in the Phase II air monitoring.)

Cadmium exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in phase II.

    • Phase II – maximum cadmium level detected:  .0474 ug/m3

COMPUTER MODELING

The results of the computer modeling done in Phase II confirmed “…the monitoring data results in predicting that winds and pollutants from the (Teck) smelter can easily travel down the Columbia River Valley to produce moderately high pollutant concentrations in the study area.”

 

PHASE III:   Nov. 3, 1993 – Aug. 6, 1994

• One monitoring site – located 3 miles NE of Northport on “Paparich”

• Metals evaluated – lead, arsenic, cadmium

RESULTS:  Phase III

ARSENIC

Arsenic exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in phase III

    • Phase III:   Arsenic maximum yearly average:  .12 ug/m3

CADMIUM

Cadmium exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in phase III

    • Phase III:   Cadmium maximum yearly average:  .04 ug/m3

 

PHASE IV:   Sept. 5, 1997 – Dec. 31, 1998

• Three monitoring sites in Northport

• Metals evaluated – arsenic, lead, cadmium, zinc

RESULTS:  Phase IV

ARSENIC

Arsenic exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC levels in phase IV

    • Phase IV:   Arsenic maximum yearly average:  .02 ug/m3

CADMIUM

Cadmium exceeded EPA’s ASIL and RSC Levels in phase IV

    • Phase IV:    Cadmium maximum yearly average:  .01 ug/m3

 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion;  of the four Air Monitoring Studies conducted by Ecology between 1992 thru 1998 the level of arsenic and cadmium consistently exceeded all safety levels.  Ecology agreed to approve Teck’s request for a new permit in 1996 for a new “KIVCET” smelter, with the condition that phase IV of the air monitoring proved the new Kivcet smelter reduced the levels of arsenic and cadmium to safe levels in and around Northport.  The results of phase IV proved only that the levels stayed the same, still unsafe.  Ecology approved the permit anyway, but concluded in phase IV that they would “continue its efforts to fine- tune the MM5, CALMET and CALPUFF air quality models for utilization in the Northport study area. …(I)n addition to evaluating the need for further emission reductions at the (Teck) facility, the above models will be used to determine pollutant impact “hot spots” and optimum long-term air quality monitoring site locations (in Northport).”

No air monitoring has taken place in Northport since the conclusion of phase IV in 1998.  For 18 years the community of Northport has been exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic and cadmium, levels the Department of Ecology knew about, and warned the EPA about…..but no one warned the residents of Northport.

The EPA is currently, and so far unsuccessfully, trying to obtain funding from Teck to install air monitors in and around Northport.  The Ministry of Environment in Canada recently fined Teck 3.4 million dollars for their spills into the Columbia River.  Perhaps, the Canadian Ministry could provide the funding for the air monitors needed 3 miles down river from Teck?  Doubtful.

How can you help get air monitors in Northport?  I will share how in part 3 of the air monitoring blog next week!

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