Remedial Investigation Feasibility Study Update

CCC Information Sheet – September, 2022

Final reports are on Teck’s public UCR-RIFS website:

Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA)

The HHRA combines the studies outlined below to establish nature, extent and possible human health risks of metals and other contaminants found in the Upper Columbia River (UCR). The findings are primarily driven by lead in soil and affect between 12 and 389 residential decision units (DU) of 588 tested depending on the calculated blood lead level (3-8 ug/dL) chosen for remediation. For residents and recreational visitors, no results exceeded EPA’s cancer benchmark of 1/10,000 increased risk. For non-cancer endpoints, risk to resident children living on properties with beaches and exposed to non-lead chemicals or lead were marginally exceeded for developmental and nervous systems, and skin/hair/nails systems. The number of exceedances differed by fish species consumed, but were present for all fish tested for children; adult risk was exceeded only for consumption of suckers. The HHRA was finalized in 2021 and is available at: ( EPA is drafting preliminary remedial management action objectives for human health risks, proposing a 5 ug/dL blood lead level target.

Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment (BERA)

The BERA is in progress. The purpose is to evaluate potential risks to terrestrial and aquatic species at the Site under current and future conditions and identify which chemical(s) of potential concern, exposure pathways, and ecological receptors (specific ecological communities or species) may be associated with unacceptable risks. The BERA includes Upland Habitat and Riverine Habitat portions composed of studies on sediment (background and from sampling), soil, benthic organisms, plants, animals and sediment transport.

Partial Remedial Investigation (RI) Report

The partial RI is in progress. This document will summarize activities conducted to characterize the study area, sources of contamination, nature and extent of contamination, and the transport and fate of focus metals within the Upland Study Area. The report also summarizes results from the HHRA and ongoing BERA. The findings will be combined with the upcoming Draft Interim Partial Riverine RI into a Draft Site-wide RI for the UCR. Considered are: aerial deposition area, relict floodplain deposition areas, and windblown sediment deposition areas.

Beach Sediment

Bottom line: All beaches are considered safe for recreational use except Bossburg Flats, which is closed pending EPA/National Park Service action. Contaminants above ecosystem screening levels were found at most DUs at Bossburg including antimony, cadmium, lead, manganese, vanadium, and zinc. Human health screening levels were exceeded in 2 soil DU’s for lead. Status: Final

Fish Tissue

Bottom line: Contaminants in fish tissue were largely unchanged from 2005 (arsenic in suckers; mercury, selenium, zinc, and PCBs in multiple species). Some contaminant levels were lower (arsenic in walleye; copper levels in walleye and suckers; lead in walleye) and some were higher (cadmium in suckers and walleye, lead in suckers). Additional study performed on hatchery white sturgeon (2016) and northern pike (2018) showed acceptable levels of contaminants for consumption except for northern pike, based on mercury content, for which consumption of large fish (>450 mm) is restricted to 8 meals/month. Status: Final

Plant Tissue Study

This study examines potential contamination of plants identified in the Tribal Use Survey; data will be used in the tribal portion of the HHRA. Field sampling work has been completed. The study sampling and analysis plan and data summary report are available on the website.

Recreational Use

Bottom line: EPA is able to get fish consumption and exposure information from these data on 2,109 people (response rate 82%). Estimated mean fish consumption for adults was 6.3 g/day; most frequently walleye and rainbow trout. Beach trips, with swimming, were estimated at a mean of 6.8 days/year and camping mean range 2.7 to 7 days. Status: Final.

Recreational Soil

First wave 2014 sample collection on 74 properties: 24 had lead levels above the national screening level (400 ppm) and 18 were above screening level (20 ppm) for arsenic. Time critical removal was completed on 14 properties in August 2015. Second wave 2016 sample collection on 144 properties: 26 had arsenic levels above the screening level (20 ppm), 6 had lead levels above the national screening level (400 ppm), 3 had thallium levels above the screening level (0.78 ppm) and 1 had cobalt levels above the screening level (23.4 ppm). Removal actions on 4 properties were completed. EPA initiated a non-RI/FS removal assessment in 2019 which identified 16 properties in Northport with lead levels above 700 ppm and additional soil removals were completed; 14 residential properties and one common-use area were cleaned up in 2022.

Sediment Toxicity Study

Primary objective was to evaluate unacceptable risks to benthic invertebrates from exposure to metals and other chemicals in UCR sediments. Porewater collection was of poor quality. Sediment and porewater chemistry were assessed and survival, weight, biomass, and reproduction were the biologic endpoints. Status: Final

  • Sediment toxicity study phase III: A five-part study examined potential sediment toxicity in more detail at Deadman’s Eddy, China Bend, and Evans. Sites were identified via sediment bed (facies) maps from the 2018 sediment facies mapping program. 106 sites were successfully field sampled and showed elevated levels of arsenic (mean 14.6; range 1.11 to 80.5) and lead (mean 367 ppm; range 12.1 to 5520) compared to reference samples. Survival data showed lower survival for H. azteca especially at Deadman’s Eddy followed by Evans compared to reference populations; low survival also occurred in one of the reference populations. Toxicity reference values were established for fish and wildlife. Status: Final

Sediment Transport

Plans are underway for this study that will provide information for monitoring and evaluating sediment transport, loading, and remobilization


Bottom line: Analytes exceeding screening levels for freshwater mussels included arsenic, cadmium, manganese, and total PBC congeners. Exceedances were also noted in the reference samples. Crayfish contained similar analytes that exceeded SLs including arsenic and total PCB congeners. Status: Final; a consumption advisory is available from the WA State Dept. of Health. They recommend not consuming freshwater mussels and clams but placed no restriction on crayfish except for high-volume consumers.

Soil Amendment Technology Evaluation Study (SATES)

  • Evaluating noninvasive techniques to decrease lead and arsenic bioavailability in soils on three tribal allotments that were offered but declined remediation from the 2014 residential soil study. Test plot characterization confirmed lead contamination above screening level (range 419-1587 ppm). Bench testing of amendments resulted in three (compost, soluble liquid phosphate and soluble phosphate plus biochar) being chosen for application in Fall 2020. After one year, the amendments have not reduced lead bioavailability.

Sturgeon Study 2010 (also see fish tissue above

Reports of study results were unacceptable except for water-only copper exposure data. CCC urged EPA to write a report on study findings to inform future efforts to understand risks to the sturgeon population. Study results for the USGS study were published. Copies are available on the CCC website.

Surface Water

Bottom line: There are no concerns with contaminants in surface water, absent a spill; CCC is concerned that disturbed water, is not well assessed. Status: Final

Tribal Use Survey

Bottom line: EPA will be able to get fish consumption and exposure information from these data on 1700 individuals from the Colville Confederated Tribes. The tribe released their own report (Fish consumption was 400 g/day). Status: Final

Upload Soil

215 composite samples were collected. Concentrations above screening levels were found for antimony, cadmium, lead, vanadium, and zinc in aerial deposition areas. Status: Final

U.S. EPA to Conduct More Soil Cleanup This Summer/Fall within Town of Northport

EPA is performing additional soil cleanup work at 15 properties within Northport during summer/fall 2022. This includes 14 residential properties and a common use area at the corner of 3rd Street & Columbia. This cleanup work is being done to address threats to people’s health from potential exposure to lead in their soil. This 2022 soil cleanup work builds on previous cleanup work conducted in and around Northport in 2004, 2015, 2018 and 2020.

Contaminated topsoil will be removed – typically down to a depth of 6 or 12 inches – and clean soils will be installed to re-establish the original grades. EPA Region 10 is using an interim action level of 700 parts per million (ppm) of lead in the soil to guide the selection of properties for this year’s cleanup.

The soil cleanup work began during the week of August 15 and is expected to last 8 to 10 weeks. Click here for the EPA’s fact sheet describing this project.

Based on new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and EPA’s published Removal Management Level User’s Guide, EPA Region 10 has also adopted a lower lead removal action level in soil from 700 ppm (parts per million) to 400 ppm. Additional cleanup work may be performed in the future within Northport and Upper Columbia Valley to address properties with lower levels of lead contamination that exceed the new action cleanup level.

Lake Roosevelt Forum

2020 Draft Human Health Risk Assessment Public Guide

Facebook Preview Thumbnail

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.

Northport Waterfront Cleanup Project


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.


Human Health Risk Assessment Perspectives from CCC

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

EPA 2020 Soil Cleanup of Northport, Washington

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.


If you have questions or concerns, please contact the following people:

Technical Information

  • Monica Tonel, EPA On-Scene Coordinator
  • Call: 206-348-2692 (mobile)
  • Email:

General Information

  • Kay Morrison, Community Involvement Coordinator
  • Call: 800-424-4372, ext. 8321
  • Email:

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:

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

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

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.