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The Lake Roosevelt Forum recently published the Public Guide of the 2020 Draft Human Health Risk Assessment for the Lake Roosevelt and Upper Columbia River Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (UCR RI/FS).
The 2020 Public Guide provides data on the EPA’s draft Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA). The HHRA investigates the heavy metal toxins of concern, the multiple exposure pathways, and the exposed population. The EPA uses established benchmarks to access the risk to residents and visitors, and implement risk prevention.
The Public Guide also provides details on samplings, cleanups, and other actions conducted by Teck, and overseen by the EPA, during the Lake Roosevelt and Upper Columbia River Remedial Investigation. The results of which were used in the HHRA. The Guide also provides the public with precautionary measures to protect visitors and residents who may be exposed to contaminants of concern.
The Washington 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 Town 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 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 near-shore and shoreline environment next to the 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.
The draft Remedial Investigation was completed in October 2019. We will hold a comment period for it when the draft Feasibility Study Report that lays out cleanup options is also ready. We are planning to finish developing cleanup options by late 2020.
During the feasibility study work, 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 Town Park shore improvement and development ideas into the cleanup options.
The information in the draft Remedial Investigation Report 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 CLEANUP SITES
SHERI REGNIERAug. 20, 2020 11:00 a.m
A previous ruling holds Teck Metals liable for response costs incurred by the confederated tribes￼
Historic pollution from the Trail smelter, the Columbia River, and an in-progress lawsuit filed by Colville tribes versus the mining giant Teck Resources was at the centre of an agreement in an American courtroom earlier this month.
On Aug. 6, Teck Resources agreed to pay another $1.6 million to confederated tribes south of the border to cover their legal costs associated with ongoing litigation related to pollutants the Trail plant dumped into the river from early industry days up until 1995.null
There has been only one ruling in the case to date, and it holds Teck Metals Ltd. (TML) liable for response costs amassed by the plaintiffs – the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation – during these years-long legal proceedings.
“Because the remedial investigation/feasibility study and the litigation are ongoing, the plaintiffs continue to incur costs,” explained Chris Stannell, Teck spokesperson.
“TML is paying those costs as they are incurred … this $1.6-million payment represents further response costs incurred by the tribal plaintiffs covering the period from Jan. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2019,” he said.
“The litigation is ongoing, and is not expected to conclude before 2023 at the earliest.”
The Aug. 6 settlement agreement comes almost four years to the day since a Washington federal judge awarded the tribes more than $8.25 million from Teck under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) for costs relating to the pollution that contained heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.
“We have consistently said that if there are real risks to human health or the environment associated with historical emissions from Trail Operations, either in Canada or in the U.S., Teck will take appropriate steps to address them,” Stannell told the Times.
“We have spent over US$125 million to date on studies of the Upper Columbia River in the United States to determine if there are real risks to human health or the environment, and the results to date indicate that the water is clean, the fish are as safe to eat as fish in other waterbodies in Washington State, and the beaches are safe for recreation – other than those affected by contamination not associated with Teck.”
The Trail smelter has been operating on the banks of the Columbia River since 1896, 10 miles north of the Canada-United States border.
The company has acknowledged in court that, between 1930 and 1995, the plant intentionally discharged nearly 10 million tons of slag and effluent directly into the Columbia River from its mining and fertilizer operations in Trail.
Mindy Smith, M.D. M.S.
CCC Board Secretary
In concert with EPA’s release of the draft Upper Columbia RI/FS Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA), I was asked to work with Citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC) board members to give our sense of public and CCC perceptions about the document and process of sharing information.
These impressions are based on a fairly recent public meeting and discussions with board members and people from the town of Northport (population about 350 people). We will be interested to see how many of our questions the HHRA addresses, or whether a different forum or report will be required.
One question goes back to 2004, which is when soil removal due to lead contamination on properties within Northport was based on a lead threshold of or exceeding 1000 ppm. Residential soil cleanup voluntarily conducted by Teck between from 2015 – 2018, however, used a threshold of 700 ppm. What does this mean to the future of Northport properties with between 700 – 1000 ppm? EPA is working on this issue separately, and we strongly support this effort to extend cleanup to properties with lead levels at 700 ppm or more.
At the meeting, EPA shared how they estimated the probability of adverse human health effects from lead. However, this information does not address questions about specific human health effects, both past and future. While much of this is outside EPA’s purview, the concerns about remediation and provision of adequate surveillance and monitoring, such as air monitoring, to ensure future protection against adverse health effects from contamination seems relevant. Without knowing which lead level will be selected for remediation, these concerns remain.
There’s on-going interest in soil amendments to reduce lead exposure in areas that do not meet removal action levels and in expanses of undisturbed land. Citizens are asking whether other cutting-edge technologies are being considered as amendments such as hemp or fungus (bioremediation). And what changes in soil contamination occur as areas are burned or otherwise altered. I, along with others, worry that effective amendments will not be found, and that hand washing will provide insufficient protection.
These and other concerns go to the heart of community questions about past and future health effects, influence on property values, availability of legacy funding, additional sampling, and the perceived need for reinstated and expanded air monitoring.
From my perspective, I am also concerned about whether the HHRA will truly reflect risk as it is difficult to know the cumulative effect of contaminants, and there is no clear way to combine lead and non-lead risks into a single risk assessment. Further, the gravity-flow and pumped creek-impoundment water systems used for irrigation and sometimes drinking, like my own water system, have not been evaluated.
While I have confidence in the good will of most of those involved in this process on both sides of the border and the impressive work done over the past 14 years, I do not have confidence in the current administration and whether sufficient clean-up and monitoring will occur now and in the future.
At the state level, the Washington Department of Ecology Air Monitoring Program disappointed us when they
said they had insufficient manpower to apply for an EPA grant for air monitoring in our area. When we suggested citizen volunteers could be trained in data collection, they disagreed.
This is despite DOE’s 2017 report entitled “Preliminary Review and Evaluation of Available Air Quality Monitoring Data and Consideration of Potential Present-Day Health Risks.” This report recommended updated air monitoring be conducted in our area to analyze heavy metals known to be emitted from the Trail smelter which “may further contribute to potential human health impacts.” On the other hand, Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program has provided invaluable assistance, including current work to consider further cleanup of the Northport Park shoreline area.
It will be interesting to read the draft HHRA. We’re eager and hopeful to see how many community-based questions will be successfully or fully addressed. EPA’s RI/FS Remedial Project Manager has thus far been very responsive to our comments. Further, to ensure that the public is well informed about the HHRA and able to provide input, EPA has agreed to a 60-day public comment period and will be providing two webinars. In that positive vein, CCC remains very committed to supporting the outreach process and, as necessary, helping collate public input with EPA.
The draft Human Health Risk Assessment is available on EPA’s website: Click here to view
During the next couple of months, the EPA will clean up the soil on 16 properties located within Northport town limits. EPA has determined that this cleanup is warranted to address a threat to
people’s health from exposure to lead in their soil. EPA is working with property owners, the Mayor of Northport, and the Northport Town Council to schedule and conduct soil cleanup activities.
In August, EPA will begin the soil cleanup in the town of Northport. With the consent of property owners, cleanup will begin at residential properties and common use areas. Common use areas include the Lyn Kaste Gould Memorial Park, the lawn at the Northport Community Library, the play area at the Northport Community Garden, the lawn at the Northport American Legion vacant lot, and the lawn at the Northport Welcome Center. EPA estimates the entire cleanup to take 8 to 10 weeks. Work will be done during the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through
Saturday. While the cleanup is taking place, you will see construction equipment such as dump trucks, excavators, graders, and water trucks working in town. EPA and its contractors will make every effort to be a good neighbor while the project is underway
EPA and its contractors will control dust where cleanup activities are taking place. They will apply water to surfaces and air monitoring instruments will be placed at the properties being cleaned up to ensure dust is controlled effectively.
Areas for soil removal were identified based on an October 2019 review of 2004 data reports of properties within Northport town limits with lead levels near or above 700 ppm (parts per million). When these areas were first evaluated in 2004, cleanup was not conducted because EPA’s removal action level at the time was 1,000 ppm. The threshold of 700 ppm is the same level EPA used when working with Teck American to clean up 18 residential properties outside of Northport town limits from 2015 – 2018. The use of this lower threshold represents advances in scientific understanding of the adverse developmental effects of lead to young children and babies. EPA’s October 2019 reevaluation documented the condition and layout of each of the properties identified in 2004. This included interviews with each property owner about changes to property use since the 2003/2004 soil sampling. Cleanup actions will focus on lawns, gardens, and play areas with a high likelihood of exposure to contaminated soil. Based on possible use changes, EPA collected and analyzed additional soil samples to better delineate the contaminated area. The results of the October 2019 removal site evaluation provide the information that supports the planned time-critical removal action.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
If you have questions or concerns, please contact the following people:
- Monica Tonel, EPA On-Scene Coordinator
- Call: 206-348-2692 (mobile)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kay Morrison, Community Involvement Coordinator
- Call: 800-424-4372, ext. 8321
- Email: email@example.com
While a border wall is built to the south — There exists a border wall to the north
Not built of concrete and steel — But of money, politics, and diplomacy
It’s not visual, but can be visualized — It’s existence seen circumstantially
When trespassed it grants sanctuary — To Canadian toxins and slag illegally
Squatters claiming possession adversely — To Columbia’s riverbed in perpetuity
Tho harmful to fish and benthics alike — Efforts at needed remediation
Result in collision — Against this wall unseen
Behind this wall extortionists lie — Wearing top hats, pinstripes, and tails
Canada making threats of reciprocation — If the U.S. pursues Columbia’s remediation
For past transboundary violations — by U.S. rust belt corporations
To this threat our government is complying — Hostaging Columbia, her inhabitants dying
Polluters escaping by recrimination — Victims subsidizing culpable corporations
Better both Nations not shield — Their transgressing corporations
For both Nations in violation — The Boundary Waters Treaty 1909
By allowing their pollutants — To cross the border line
The wall unseen is government — Constructed to protect their polluters
~ Old Man River
Thurs., July 4, 2019, 8:52 p.m.
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.
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.
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
- 2019 UCR Lake Roosevelt RI/FS Public Guide
- EPA’s Upper Columbia River Site Study website
- Teck’s Upper Columbia River Project website
- Teck’s Upper Columbia River Site Documents
- Lake Roosevelt Forum website
- Ecology’s Upper Columbia River Lake Roosevelt site
- Summary of RI/FS agreement and statement of work
- Summary of RI/FS agreement & statement of work