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