MAC: Mines and Communities

Teck Cominco Will Appeal Columbia River Pollution Ruling

Published by MAC on 2004-11-10

A US court has ruled in favour of the native American Colville Nation and against Teck-Cominco, in a long standing pollution suit. But the Canadian government and the company want the matter settled "bilaterally" and out of court. (Well they would, wouldn't they?)

Teck Cominco Will Appeal Columbia River Pollution Ruling

Environmental News Service (ENS)

November 10, 2004

YAKIMA, Washington - A British Columbia mining company says it will appeal a Washington state judge's decision Monday to press pollution charges against it. Teck Cominco Metals Ltd. is charged with polluting the Columbia River with heavy metals for decades.

"We're disappointed with the ruling and we will be moving forward with an appeal," said David Parker, a spokesman for Teck Cominco. "We prefer to move forward with a negotiated, cooperative approach and favor a bilateral solution reached between Canada and the U.S."

Teck Cominco contends the lawsuit should be dismissed because the U.S. government cannot impose rules on Canadian companies that operate on Canadian soil. The company's giant lead-zinc smelter is about 10 miles north of the border in Trail, British Columbia.

The company has the backing of the Canadian government, which also spoke out against the ruling Tuesday. International Trade Canada spokesman Andre Lemay said Canada has struck bilateral agreements with the U.S. on other issues such as this and has doubled its efforts to help Teck Cominco achieve an out of court solution.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Alan McDonald refused to dismiss the case, saying the United States' environmental laws are intended to clean up pollution inside U.S. borders, regardless of where it originates. "The Upper Columbia River Site is a 'domestic condition' over which the United States has sovereignty and legislative control," McDonald ruled.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) charges that heavy-metal pollutants have flowed into Washington state waters from the smelter for decades. Late last year, the EPA demanded that the company pay for a study of the pollution and possible remedies. An EPA spokesman said the agency was pleased with the ruling.

The Colville Confederated Tribes of Eastern Washington sued the company in July for failing to comply with that order, and the state of Washington joined the lawsuit in September.

Study Says Canadian Smelter Polluting US Lake

Planet Ark

March 9, 2005

Vancouver, British Columbia - A Canadian smelter produced most of the lead, zinc and cadmium pollution found in a Washington state lake at the center of a cross-border environmental fight, according to a study released Monday.

The US Geological Survey said studies of sediment in Lake Roosevelt also determined that slag that was dumped into the Columbia River for decades had evidence of weathering and breaking down, and could not be considered inert. The lake, which was created on the Columbia River in 1941 with the building of the Grand Coulee Dam, is the focus of a fight between the US government, Washington state Indian tribes and Canadian mining firm Teck Cominco Ltd.

US officials and the Confederation of Tribes of Colville Reservation want Teck Cominco to pay for a study and clean-up of the pollution under the jurisdiction of the US "Superfund" law.

The company says it is willing to pay $13 million for a study of the pollution danger, but opposes doing it under US law because the smelter is located in Trail, British Columbia, and subject to Canadian law.

Teck argues that the US law could open it up to millions of dollars in liability, but without the same protections that US companies enjoy.

The company has also argued that the sand-like slag does not pose a health risk, and that there were other sources of pollutants found in Lake Roosevelt's sediments.

"These and other results from our study indicate that the liquid effluent from the Teck Cominco smelter is the primary contributor of the large concentrations found in sediment samples from the middle and lower reaches of Lake Roosevelt," the USGS said in a news release.

Teck Cominco officials were not available for immediate comment Monday.

The Colville tribes said the study proves the slag has had a negative impact on the environment.

(In US dollars)

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