IN THE NEWS…

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

Monitor Upper Columbia Air Quality

Published: Wednesday, 07 September 2022 20:33

The Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT) are seeking volunteers to host small PurpleAir monitors at locations near the Upper Columbia River (Lake Roosevelt). Click here to complete a quick questionnaire to see if you’re a good fit to be a host. Selected volunteers will join a citizen science cadre contributing to the health of you and your neighbors.

This is part of a two-year EPA Environmental Justice grant received by CCT. Said tribal consultant Whitney Fraser, “We envision 52 air monitoring stations being distributed as close to the river as possible.”

Data will be collected and shared real-time via the web and mapping technology. It’s a big win for residents affected by annual events like wildfires and dust storms. “At a glance,” said Fraser, “you can see whether air quality near where you live is of concern and whether to take precautions.”

Measuring the size and quantity of airborne particles, monitoring stations are the size of a camp stove. As the numbers increase, the risk to people increases as well. For those suffering from asthma and other respiratory ailments, this type of real-time information can allow people to take actions that limit their exposure to unhealthy air.

Working with the University of Washington, CCT is also trying to discern if it’s possible to identify a distinct “signature” from different readings. For instance, dust storms may have a distinctive ratio of particle size and quantity. Other examples would be wildfires, or industrial emissions from a smelter.

After the two-year grant period, Fraser hopes the network of monitors will remain active. The hard part according to Fraser is getting the volunteers and infrastructure in place. Once installed, they are fairly low-cost to maintain.

Please consider being a part of this important community-based air quality monitoring program.

Copyright © 2022 Lake Roosevelt Forum

2020 Draft Human Health Risk Assessment Public Guide

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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.

Northport Waterfront Cleanup Project

PROJECT BACKGROUND

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.

CONTAMINATION

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

Teck pegged with U.S. tribes’ $1.6M legal bill

Aug. 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.

The tribes sued Teck in July 2004 to recover costs to deal with the pollution. Shortly thereafter, Washington state intervened as a plaintiff. 

In June 2006, Teck signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. EPA stating, the company is voluntarily funding and conducting a remedial investigation and feasibility study to evaluate the nature and the extent of contamination; determine if unacceptable risk to human health or the environment exists as a result of any contamination; and determine whether action is required to mitigate any unacceptable risk. 

At that time, the company agreed to provide over $1 million per year to the Colville and Spokane Tribes, Washington State and the Department of the Interior to for their participation and review on an ongoing basis.

Senior U.S. District Judge Lonny Suko previously awarded the tribes $8.25 million – $4.9 million stemming from litigation and $3.4 million from expenses related to water investigative studies – incurred through the end of 2013, along with prejudgment interest. 

Teck appealed Suko’s Aug. 2016 ruling, though it was upheld by the U.S. Ninth Circuit two years later.

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.

CLEANUP PLANS


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

CONTROLLING DUST


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.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION


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:

Technical Information

  • Monica Tonel, EPA On-Scene Coordinator
  • Call: 206-348-2692 (mobile)
  • Email: tonel.monica@epa.gov

General Information

  • Kay Morrison, Community Involvement Coordinator
  • Call: 800-424-4372, ext. 8321
  • Email: morrison.kay@epa.gov

Columbia River Treaty: Local Governments’ Committee Recommendations Update

January 2021

The B.C. Columbia River Treaty Local Governments’Committee (theCommittee) provided its original recommendations on the future of the Columbia River Treaty (CRT) to the federal and provincial governments in 2013. The original recommendations have been updated in response to CRT-related interests and issues raised by Columbia River Basin residents in Canada.These recommendations are based on currently available information and will be updated if new information comes forward that results in changes to the Committee’s recommendations.

These recommendationshave been submitted to the provincial and federal governments to contribute to the current negotiations to modernize the CRT.The Committee will continue to pursue solutions to domestic issues and to monitor andbe involved in the Treaty negotiations when appropriate.

For more information about the Committee or to provide your perspectives on CRT related topics, please contact:

Visit the Committee webpage at: https://akblg.ca/columbia river treaty.html

For more information about the CRT negotiations go to the provincial CRT webpage: http://eng;ige.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivemeaty and sign up for the CRT E-Newsletter.

To learn more about the background and recommendations of this treaty download the pdf:

To read the Local Governments’ Committee Updated Recommendations Summary download the pdf below:

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