Teck Smelter, a Canadian lead and zinc smelter located 13 miles from Northport, WA 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.

1988 image of slag being released from Teck smelter into the Columbia River
(photo: Joel Rogers)

UCR RI/FS 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 (UCR 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.

Sturgeon study along the upper Columbia River

Human Health Risk Assessment

The EPA has released the draft Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA). This HHRA was conducted as part of the ongoing RI/FS.

In this assessment, exposures to chemicals of potential concern were evaluated for five groups of people:

  • Residents
  • Outdoor Workers
  • Recreational Visitors
  • “Colville High-Intensity Resource Users”
  • Spokane Tribe of Indians.

The EPA held a webinar June 10th to provide information about their work at the site, and invite input from community members. If you missed the webinar see below to watch the video and view the slideshow presented.

  • Click here to watch the video recording of EPA’s June 10 webinar
  • Click here to view slides from EPA’s webinar presentations

Additional Resources