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.

Mindy Smith and the Rev. Martin Wells: Much is at stake in Columbia River treaty’s update

Thurs., July 4, 2019, 8:52 p.m.

By Mindy Smith and the Rev. Martin Wells

Maps of the Columbia River circulating in the U.S. often stop at the international border, as though the world beyond is unknown. Rivers, forests and wildlife don’t recognize such borders. For thousands of years salmon returned to spawn along this undivided river. Indigenous people lived and buried their dead here.

The international border is the 49th parallel, drawn in London and Washington, D.C., across the river-watershed home for indigenous people and fish and wildlife. Despite the political line, we remain one region with shared and binding history, culture and economy. Americans and Canadians together.

One tie that binds us together is reciprocal education. Community Colleges of Spokane and Selkirk College are jointly hosting the sixth annual international conference “One River – Ethics Matter” in Castlegar, B.C., on May 30-31.

Castlegar is located at the confluence of rivers, the Kootenay and Columbia. With worsening forest fires and massive salmon die-offs from warming downstream reservoirs, the ethics conference will spotlight youth at risk, climate change, and renewing the Columbia River Treaty.

Indigenous, religious and academic leaders will gather to discuss the Columbia River’s past and future, ethics, and in the words of the Northwest Roman Catholic bishops’ Columbia River Pastoral Letter, actions we must take “to effect a spiritual, social and ecological transformation of the watershed.” 

Only one-sixth of the Columbia River Basin is in Canada, producing about 40 percent of the water flowing into the Pacific Ocean. In especially warm years with little snow, that number climbs toward 50 percent. With climate change, the Columbia’s cold, water-rich Upper Columbia is increasingly valuable.

Just as tribes gathered at Kettle Falls to trade goods and fish for ocean salmon, people today engage in regional commerce. Canadians travel to Spokane, Colville, Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry and many other communities. Americans travel north, experiencing beautiful British Columbia. Canadian and American flags fly side-by-side. Dollars trade hands in a robust, regional border economy.

The Peace Arch at the border between the two countries near Vancouver, B.C., is inscribed: “Children of a common mother,” symbolizing enduring friendship across a long international border. Here, outside the Columbia Basin, Canadians’ and Americans’ political leaders met in 1964 to complete the Columbia River Treaty that would devastate the Upper Columbia.

The Columbia River Treaty manages for two purposes only: hydropower and flood risk. The treaty is silent on health of the river, riparian habitat, survival of salmon and salmon-based cultures, and indigenous sovereignty. Once, 16 million to 30 million salmon returned to the Columbia River Basin annually, the world’s richest salmon river. Under the current treaty, the river is managed as a dam-machine that generates wealth for some at costs to others.

The treaty authorized the construction of four major water storage dams – one in Montana and three in B.C., setting in place American-Canadian joint governance of the international Columbia River. Building these dams and reservoirs required logging, bulldozing and flooding vast wildlife and fisheries-rich forested valleys of the Upper Columbia. Hugh Keenleyside Dam near Castlegar, B.C., forced 2,300 people from their homes.

Treaty negotiations began a year ago. Much is at stake for the Upper Columbia on both sides of the border. Negotiations are closed to the public.

Regional citizens, acting as a “community of the Columbia,” are striving to influence their destiny through learning about and urging that an updated international river treaty get right what the original treaty got wrong. Health of the river – “Ecosystem-based Function” including restoring salmon above Grand Coulee Dam – needs to be added as a third treaty purpose coequal with hydropower and flood risk. The river needs a voice.

“If you are not at the table, then you’re on the menu.” Canada has invited aboriginal First Nations into the treaty negotiation sessions as observers. We remain hopeful that American negotiators will also invite the aboriginal Columbia Basin tribes.

Against a backdrop of historic wrongs and unfolding climate change, stewardship and justice-based river governance is within our grasp. Water is fundamental. Water is life. As the indigenous tribes who speak Syilx, one of the Columbia’s indigenous languages, have memorialized in their Water Declaration, “When we take care of the land and water, then land and water take care of us. This is our law.”


Mindy Smith, MD, MS, is a family physician and medical editor who works with Citizens for a Clean Columbia advocating for the Columbia River ecosystem. The Rev. Martin Wells is retired bishop of the Eastern Washington, Idaho and Wyoming Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church

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

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