Human Health Risk Assessment Webinar

Dear CCC members and friends,

We have the opportunity, as one of the communities most affected by Teck smelter discharges into the air and water, to provide comments on the EPA’s Human Health Risk Assessment. This document estimates the nature and probability of adverse health effects in humans who may be exposed to chemicals in contaminated environmental media, now or in the future. It will be used to help determine the need for cleanup or other remedial measures to reduce contaminant exposure and protect public health.

As you read through this document, you might consider the effectiveness of past removal actions and whether they were sufficient, whether there are any exposure media (e.g., water, beaches) that have not been fully considered, if you are comfortable with the conclusions about the safety of beaches and fish consumption, and which lead benchmarks should be used for clean-up.

To help prepare you for making comments, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be holding two identical webinars, on June 10 and July 15, both starting at 5:30 pm to give as many people as possible a chance to learn more about the HHRA directly from the EPA. If you wish to attend the webinars, please preregister at:

www.eventbrite.com/e/epa-upper-columbia-river-webinars-tickets-105584696670

The draft Human Health Risk Assessment is available on EPA’s website:

www.epa.gov/columbiariver/upper-columbia-river-remedial-investigation-feasibility-study

Comments must be received by July 24th. If you have questions about the assessment and cannot attend a webinar please contact Robert Tan at: (206) 553-2580. Also, feel free to email me if needed; best address is smithm69@msu.edu.

Best to all and stay safe and well,

Mindy Smith, CCC secretary  

Canadian mining company must pay Colville tribe costs tied to clean-up of Upper Columbia River

Sat., June 15, 2019

Matt Wolohan squats near a sandbar on the Columbia River.
(Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

By: Kip Hill

The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to hear the latest appeal from a Canadian mining firm that has been blamed for contamination of the Upper Columbia River north of Kettle Falls.

Teck Metals, which owns a smelter in Trail, British Columbia, sought review of a 2018 order from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordering them to pay more than $8 million in “response costs” to the Colville Confederated Tribes. The tribe had previously worked with the EPA and other environmental agencies to determine that millions of tons of contaminated heavy metal material had been released by the company into the river between 1930 and 1995, threatening fishing and recreation in Lake Roosevelt and the northern reaches of the river.

Some of the contamination from the smelter, as well as other industrial sites along the river, turned the sand along a beach north of Northport black from settled slag. Teck paid to remove 9,100 tons of sand from that beach in 2010.

The Supreme Court declined to hear the case in orders issued Monday in Washington, D.C. The Washington Ecology Department lauded the decision in a statement Friday, calling it a “big win” for tribes and the state.

A lawsuit was initially filed in 2004 seeking restitution and coverage of cleanup costs by Teck. The suit was filed in federal court in Eastern Washington, and one of the named plaintiffs was Joe Pakootas, a Colville Confederated tribe member later turned Democratic politician.

“We’ve filed many a suit, and they’ve all been appealed,” Pakootas said Friday.

While the courts have ruled Teck is responsible for the water contamination, in 2016 judges excused the firm from covering cleanup costs for air pollution from the smelter’s smokestacks wafting across the border.

Teck argued that it was outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts and later that it should not be subject to private lawsuits because of diplomatic agreements between Canada and the United States. In a brief filed with the Supreme Court, the Canadian government argued allowing the order to stand would allow judgments of a court to supersede cleanup efforts negotiated between the two countries.

“Through a combination of bilateral agreements, diplomatic consultations and treaty-based dispute resolution processes, Canada and the United States have worked in tandem to prevent and repair cross-border contamination for more than a century,” the country wrote in its brief.

The tribes have spent millions in regulatory costs trying to determine the extent of the contamination caused by pollution, Pakootas said. The judgment will cover those costs, but the complicated question of what needs to be done to reduce the level of slag contamination in the lakes and riverbeds of the Upper Columbia will likely be decided in future litigation, he said.

“The cleanup is going to be another issue,” he said.

Upper Columbia River Site Study

Teck Trail Smelter, a canadian lead and zinc smelter located 10 miles from the US border in Trail B.C., has contaminated the Upper Columbia River and upland areas near the US border since 1896. Teck released heavy metal toxins including; arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and other hazardous metals through their smokestack emissions into the atmosphere and directly into the Columbia River in the form of slag, a sand like by-product of the smelting process.

1988 image of slag being released from Teck smelter into the Columbia River
(photo: Joel Rogers)

UCR Remedial Investigation Feasibility Study

In 2006, Teck American, Inc., entered into an agreement with the EPA to fund and conduct the Upper Columbia River Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) from the U.S.-Canadian border to Grand Coulee Dam and surrounding areas. The EPA is overseeing Teck’s RI/FS.

During the Remedial Investigation (RI) phase; Teck conducted soil and sediment sampling and analysis studies, multiple fish studies, water sampling and an assessment of past air monitoring data of the area. The purpose of the investigation was to collect environmental samples and analyze the data to identify heavy metal contaminants, contaminated locations, and assess the risk of exposure to human health and the environment.

The Feasibility Study (FS) phase will be developed after the RI phase has been completed. It will offer cleanup options for contaminated areas discovered during the RI.

Sturgeon study along the upper Columbia River

Human Health Risk Assessment

The EPA is responsible for the Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA). The data collected during the RI on the contaminants of concern will be used by the EPA to assess if the levels and routes of exposure to the identified contaminants pose a potential risk to public health.


Additional Information & Resources

Northport Waterfront Investigation

WA State Department of Ecology is directing and funding an investigation and cleanup of smelter-related metals contamination on Northport’s City Park and boat launch waterfront area. The project area includes all permanently and seasonally exposed areas of the Columbia River bank and shore directly next to the Northport City Park and boat launch. From the river, this area is between Smelter Rock downstream to the Northport Highway 25 Bridge, and is associated with the historic Le Roi Smelter that was located at and around the City Park. The area remains polluted by smelter wastes that were dumped and dispersed along the shore. Our goal is to assess options for protecting people and restoring the environment next to the City Park. We look forward to working with local government, businesses, and residents during the investigation and cleanup process to understand your concerns and the community’s vision for the waterfront.

First round of beach sampling complete

We held a comment period March 13 – April 11, 2019, for the Remedial Investigation (RI) Work Plan and related State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) documents. Learn more about the investigation in the notice that was mailed to local residents and businesses.We responded to comments from two people and thank them for their input. 

Next steps

The draft RI Report will take several months to prepare following the initial field work and be publicly available later this year. We will hold a comment period for it when the draft Feasibility Study Report that lays out cleanup options is also ready.

Prior to that, we are planning to hold a public meeting to share the investigation results and start discussing options for cleanup. The purpose of having a public meeting prior to public comment on the reports is we’d like to incorporate the community’s City Park shore improvement and development ideas into the cleanup options.

Contamination

The information gathered during the investigation will help Ecology understand where contamination exists and develop options for cleaning it up. However, based on past investigations in this area, we know several metals are present in smelter wastes in this area:

Metal levels known to be present do not pose an immediate, acute human health risk. However, long-term exposure may increase the risk of certain health problems. You can take simple actions to protect yourself and your family from exposure.

Related Information

  • Dirt Alert program  – Industrial air emissions and pesticides used in farming have polluted large areas of soil with arsenic and lead. Our Dirt Alert program provides information on how you can protect yourself and your family.

Related Clean-Up Sites

Additional Resources

Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study

Under the terms of a 2006 settlement agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Teck American Incorporated (Teck), a pollution investigation is being performed to establish the nature, extent and possible human health and ecological risks of contaminants found in the Upper Columbia River, which includes Lake Roosevelt and the Upper Columbia River Valley. The EPA refers to the investigation as the Upper Columbia River (UCR) Site Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS). For the history and detailed information of the study click here. Or to read Lake Roosevelt Forum’s RI/FS Public Guide click here.

There is a brief update on the status as of January 2018 of the studies that form the RI/FS. Final reports from completed studies can be found on the website click here to read. Once all studies are completed, EPA will perform both a human health risk assessment and baseline ecological risk assessment. Those results will direct the need for remediation.

Download update summary here.

Sampling top soil in residential yards in 2014
Sturgeon study along upper Columbia River

EPA and CCC Collaboration

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) News

EPA Columbia River Information

EPA Residential Soil Study Fact Sheet

2012 Beach Fact Sheet

CCC Comments to EPA

Bossburg QAPP – May, 2014

Upland Soil Study – May, 2014

Residential Soil Study Field Reconnaissance Plan – April, 2014

Residential Soil Study – March, 2014 (or later)

Residential Soil DQO – October, 2013

Bossburg QAPP – March, 2014 (or later)

Upland Soil QAPP – September, 2013 (or later)

Upland Lake Sediment Memo – September, 2013 (or later)

Toxicity Study Spill Metal – August, 2013

Beach Sediment Study Field Sampling – June, 2013

Bossburg QAPP – April, 2013

For older information, please see the archive page

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES


Cause for Alarm

INLANDER – June 30, 2016

Residents of a remote part of Stevens County say something is making them sick, but no one is sure exactly what it is… Read more

Tim Loe and his partner, Gina Britton, worry that something uphill is making their goats sick.

EPA Declines to Test Air Down River

SPOKESMAN REVIEW- May 16, 2018

The community of Northport, Washington, is about 20 miles south of the … Teck has spent more than $1.5 billion modernizing the Trail smelter … read more


Northport Residents Renew Calls For Air Monitoring

SPOKESMAN REVIEW – March 17, 2018

Clifford Ward lives near Northport, Washington, a town of about 300 … Chad Pederson, a Teck Resources spokesman, said the company has … Read more


Canadian Smelter Not Responsible

SPOKESMAN REVIEW – April 12, 2016

In an email, Teck spokesman Chad Pederson said the company … to the Canadian border, encompassing the area that’s now Northport.read more


State to Step in After EPA Declines to Test Air

SPOKESMAN REVIEW – May 6, 2018

The SpokesmanReview reports that residents petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to install air monitors in Northport, about 20 miles … State modeling showed that Teck Resources Ltd.’s smelter could be sending … read more


Amid Health Problems, Some Northport Residents Look to Canadian Smelter

SPOKESMAN REVIEW – June 21, 2009

(Jesse Tinsley / The SpokesmanReview) … Leaning on a cane at the river’s edge, the 52-year-old Northport woman … Her parents’ ranch lies about 15 miles downstream from Teck Resources Ltd.’s lead smelter in Trail, B.C. … a vice president for Teck American in Spokane, the company’s U.S. subsidiary... read more

Julie Sowards, sits with her mother, Rosemarie Phillips, at the family farm near Northport.


You Can Make a Difference!

WE APPRECIATE YOUR DONATIONS!

Thank you for helping us in our quest to hold the polluters accountable for the damages they have caused to the health of the Upper Columbia River (UCR), our residents and the wildlife. Donations are needed to continue our commitment to monitor, advise and participate in the ongoing environmental studies of the UCR site.

Please send your check or money order to the address below, payable to CCC.

Citizens for a Clean Columbia
P.O. Box 172
Northport, WA. 99157

Questions?

Email: info@cleancolumbia.org