Teck and US EPA agree on Columbia River assessment

After many months of wrangling and diplomatic manoeuvring, Teck Cominco and the US Environmental Protection Agency have reached an agreement for Teck Cominco to conduct comprehensive human health and environmental assessments of the Upper Columbia River Basin.  Doug Horswill, Senior Vice President, Environment and Corporate Affairs for Teck Cominco said: "From day one Teck Cominco has voluntarily sought a co-operative arrangement with US authorities to address the public’s concerns surrounding Lake Roosevelt. This agreement is a great step forward in allowing us to fulfill our commitment. The Government of Canada’s participation was instrumental in achieving this agreement."

Under the agreement, Teck Cominco will fund scientific studies under the oversight of the EPA and with the participation of the Government of Canada, the US Department of the Interior, the State of Washington, and the Spokane and Confederated Colville Tribes. The studies will produce a science-based report on the ecological and human health conditions of the Columbia River from the Grand Coulee dam to the Canadian border, a length of about 250 km.

Teck Cominco owns the Trail facility in southeast British Columbia. This is one of the world’s largest fully-integrated, zinc and lead smelting and refining complexes, producing some 290,000 t/y of zinc and 120,000 t/y of lead. Twenty other metal and chemical products are also produced. Back in December 2003 the EPA had accused Teck Cominco of causing significant pollution in the Columbia River. At that time, Teck Cominco’s response was that “the company is not subject to the EPA Region 10’s jurisdiction under CERCLA.” However it “offered to undertake studies at an estimated cost of $13 million to identify any human health and ecological issues caused by its operations.”

Much of the previous discussion of this question, by Teck Cominco, can be found at http://www.teckcominco.com/articles/roosevelt/update-031210.htm and http://www.teckcominco.com/articles/roosevelt/update-a-031209.htm.