Posts Tagged ‘THE NORTHPORT PROJECT’

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.

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.

Ninth Circuit rules in favor of Teck smelter on liability claim

The Original article published at Lake Roosevelt Forum, http://www.lrf.org

A three judge panel from the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that aerial deposition from the Teck smelter in Trail, Canada does not constitute “disposal.” As such, Teck cannot be held liable for hazardous substances such as lead, arsenic and mercury emitted from Trail smoke stacks that traveled through the atmosphere and then deposited in the Upper Columbia Valley. Washington State and the Colville Confederated Tribes brought the case to hold Teck liable for cleanup costs and natural resource damages under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA (also known as superfund).

The court relied heavily on two precedents that parse the meaning of “disposal of waste” under CERCLA. In one of the precedents, the ninth circuit ruled that BNSF Railway emitting diesel particulate matter into the air that resettled onto the land and water did not constitute disposal of waste and thus not subject to liability under CERCLA.

News reports indicate plaintiffs will petition for a new hearing before the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Potentially, the case could be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under terms of a 2006 settlement agreement between EPA and Teck, Teck has funded soil sampling and remediation related to atmospheric deposition in the Upper Columbia Valley. In 2014, EPA sampled 74 residential properties which led to cleanup on 14 properties. This year, 142 property owners granted access for soil sampling that begins this month.

Click here for a National Law Review article reviewing the case and its implications.

Documentary makers visit Northport- view clips from filming

What began as a class project for Anne Fischel and Lin Nelson, two professors from Evergreen State College, grew into a multi-media project documenting the experiences of three communities with prolonged relationships with the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO).

Through research, film, photography, oral history, analytical writing, a website, and a documentary, Their Mines, Our Stories document the experiences and struggles of these communities, left to deal with the fallout of ASARCO smelter’s decades of unregulated pollution once they closed their doors and filed for bankruptcy.

Through their shared conditions, these communities are fighting to strengthen policy framework, pollution control laws, regulations and emission standards.
Anne and Lin are reaching out to other communities impacted by industrial pollution, struggling to find answers, assistance, and solutions from the polluters and their state and federal agencies.

This is what brought them to Northport. In May Anne and Lin met with Northport community members at the high school, where we screened their documentary “Under the Smoke Stack.” After the screening Carlos Martinez, a community advocate from Smeltertown in El Paso, TX, called in and we shared our experiences dealing with the polluters, the EPA, and the changes that needed to be made to benefit small communities going forward. We all agreed that if small communities like ours worked together we could create a larger information network.

The following day they filmed interviews with several residents, who shared their stories of how decades of exposure to toxic pollution had impacted their lives. Clips from these interviews can be viewed at: Vimeo – Northport, WA clips. (Click to view)  

The difficulties small communities, impacted by big polluters, face is our size makes us easy to overlook.

However, if we work with other small communities like ours we will become bigger, our voices will become louder, and we will become harder to overlook. With a stronger voice we can work together to make positive changes to impact and strengthen policy, regulations, and environmental health laws.

To read more about Their Mines, Our Stories: Work, Environment and Justice in ASARCO- Impacted Communities visit Anne and Lin’s website at:  http://www.theirminesourstories.org/

The Death List

by:  Jamie Paparich

In 1992 reporter Julie Titone wrote an article in the Spokesman-Review, “Canadian companies suspected in illnesses.”  The article focused on a group of mothers in Northport, Washington and the health effects their small community suffered from because of, in their opinion, chronic exposure to the heavy metal toxins released by a Canadian smelter 3 miles up river, Teck Cominco.

The article begins with neighbors Naomi Palm, Faye Jackman, and Kay Paparich sitting in Naomi’s kitchen. In front of Naomi was her hand written notes of a health survey the women conducted in the community.  The notes listed the similar illnesses her and all her neighbors, family, and friends suffered from.  Naomi called it her “death list”.  The list contained 45 previous residents who passed away from four types of cancer, and 163 residents all suffering from similar diseases. In a town of 375 people the list was alarming, to say the least.

At the time of the article the small community was paralyzed with fear. Children continued to be diagnosed with two rare intestinal diseases, friends and neighbors were passing away from brain aneurisms or tumors, cancer, or suffering from the debilitating effects of multiple scoliosis and parkinson’s disease.

The town first became aware of the startling amount of illnesses being diagnosed in the community in the late 1970’s.  After repeated requests, the Washington State Department of Health finally did a health investigation in 1988.  However, the health investigator who conducted the investigation left the department and the findings were never made public.

So in 1991 these determined women began conducting their own health survey of the community.  After months of knocking on doors they compiled the information their neighbors had provided.  They discovered that of the 7 families living along Mitchell Road, all living within a 2 mile radius of each other, fifteen children had been diagnosed with 2 rare auto immune diseases, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. At the time of the survey approximately 1 in 100,000 people were diagnosed with either Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s in the United States.

The woman also discovered that of the six families living along Waneta Road, across the Columbia River from Mitchell Road, 12 people had died, or suffered from, brain aneurisms or brain tumors.  Statistically 8-10 people out of 100,000 people suffer from a brain aneurism in the United States.    

Naomi mapped out the illnesses collected from their survey in an attempt to understand if their route of exposure to the smelter’s toxins might be the common denominator effecting their families with these rare illnesses.  Their exposures differed in many ways. Not everyone swam in the river, not everyone grew their own gardens, or ate the fish…..but the one common denominator quickly became clear.  It was the air.  The families all lived in a valley, next to the Columbia River.  The pollution flowing north from the smelter often got trapped in the valley walls.

Two months after the 1992 article was published the Washington State Department of Ecology began the first of four phases of air monitoring in the area.  The results of all four phases of the monitoring showed that levels of arsenic were 200 times higher than national safety standards, and levels of cadmium were 18 times higher.  Ecology issued the smelter a warning that continuous air monitoring of the area was necessary.  The residents of Northport were never made aware of these results.  Teck did continue to monitor the air until 2006, according to EPA documents.  The levels of arsenic and cadmium continued to exceed safety standards at the same rate.

The 1992 article ended with Kay Paparich voicing her concern for future generations of Northport residents, “It’s too late for my children because they’ve already got these problems, but what about the little ones coming up?”

“The little ones coming up”, that Kay was so concerned about in 1992, are now in their 20’s and 30’s, suffering from the same illnesses that these women discussed in Naomi’s kitchen 24 years ago.

In 2009 residents conducted another community health survey of past and present Northport residents.  The results mirrored those of the 1991 community health survey, and confirmed Kay’s concerns were valid.  Not only were residents still being diagnosed with the same health issues, at the same rate, reported cases of multiple scoliosis, Parkinson’s and cases of the four types of cancers of concern had increased.

What these women discovered by coming together and using plain common sense, took government agencies decades, and millions of dollars, to finally realize.  The agencies were able to negotiate with the smelter to remove contaminated soil from beaches along the Columbia River, residential property, and upland soil.  However, the air still continues to be ignored.  If the smelter is monitoring it, they are no longer sharing the results with our government agencies, and our government agencies are not monitoring it.

The 1929 & 1936 USDA studies, the 1992 – 1998 Ecology air monitoring studies, the 1994 – 2006 Teck air monitoring, EPA’s decade long remedial investigations, along with Ecology’s soil and wetland studies, The Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), and Teck’s own remedial investigations, have all confirmed specific heavy metal contamination of the Upper Columbia River area, specifically in and around Northport.  It has forensically and scientifically confirmed that the source of contamination is Teck Resources. More specifically, the primary source of contamination is from Teck’s aerial dispersion of heavy metal toxins, through their smoke stacks.

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).”

To simplify the 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.

Currently the air in Northport is not being monitored.  Ecology does not have the funds to install monitoring, the EPA has not been able to negotiate it as part of Teck’s remedial investigation and human health risk assessment.

Teck’s air emissions have poisoned over three generations of Northport residents.  Nothing is being done to protect the next three generations, or the generations after that.

To request air monitors be installed in and around Northport contact EPA project manager Laura Buelow at: Buelow.Laura@epa.gov

Documentary/Activists – Meeting THIS Saturday in Northport

REMINDER:  The group with Their Mines, Our Stories: Work, Environment and Justice in ASARCO-Impacted Communities will be visiting Northport this weekend.

Through research, film, photography, oral history and analytical writing, they are documenting communities located near smelters, struggling with the impacts of decades of pollution on their environment and health.

Their goal is to explore “how communities, through dedicated and strategic networking around shared conditions, have sought to impact and strengthen the policy frameworks that shape environmental and occupational health.”

Please join us THIS Saturday, May 28th at 2:00 p.m., at the Northport High School, to participate in a meeting to hear about the group’s impressive work.  It is their hope we can all work together to make positive changes in laws and regulation that will allow the industry to continue to operate successfully, but protect the health and environment for future generations.

They will also be filming Northport residents, interested in sharing their stories, on Sunday, May 29th.  More information about this will be addressed at the meeting Saturday.

 

MEETING INFORMATION

DATE:   Saturday, May 28th

TIME:   2:00 p.m.

LOCATION:   Northport High School

 

 

NORTHPORT, WA HISTORIC SOCIETY

Follow the Northport Historical Society Facebook page!  This group is insuring the history of Northport and its people is preserved and accessible to everyone.

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