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Case Summary: Teck Agrees to Clean Up Lead-contaminated Residential and Allotment Properties in Northport, Washington

On August 13, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that a cleanup agreement was reached with Teck Metals Limited and Teck American Inc. to begin removing lead and other contaminants from 15 properties in northeast Washington State. Fourteen properties are residential and one property is a tribal allotment. This is the first time a Canadian corporation operating in Canada has entered into an agreement under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to conduct a response action in the United States.

Under the terms of the agreement, Teck will excavate and replace soil on the residential properties and allotment property with EPA overseeing Teck’s work. The cleanup will address soil contamination in the areas of the properties most frequented by people to reduce the possibility of exposure to lead and arsenic. The cleanup action is expected to be completed by November 2015.

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Information about the Tech Metals Limited

Teck Metals Limited (TML) is Canada’s largest diversified resource company with nearly 11,000 employees worldwide involved in a wide range of activities related to mining and minerals processing. Teck is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada and owns or has an interest in 12 mines located in either Canada, the United States, Chile or Peru.

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Information about the Property Cleanup

TML owns and operates an integrated smelting and refining complex in Trail, British Columbia (BC) situated approximately 10 river miles north of the U.S./Canada border. The EPA believes that discharges from the smelter have contributed to releases of hazardous substances at the Upper Columbia River site and specifically at the residential properties and tribal allotments that are referred to in the settlement.

EPA and the State of Washington conducted sampling in 2014 and 2015 which defined the extent of lead and arsenic-contaminated soil in and around the city of Northport, Wash., which is just downriver and downwind from Teck’s smelter in Trail, BC. The cleanup work is part of a larger investigative effort that has continued for over a decade near the Columbia River in northeast Washington to assess the environmental and health consequences of the nearby lead smelter. The cleanup work on these properties is expected to remove over 7,000 tons of contaminated soils and greatly reduce human health and environmental exposure to these hazardous substances.

Lead is known to be harmful to people when ingested or inhaled, particularly to children under the age of six. Lead poisoning can cause a number of adverse human health effects, but is particularly detrimental to the neurological development of children. For hundreds of years, lead has been mined, smelted, refined, and used in products (e.g., as an additive in paint, gasoline, leaded pipes, solder, crystal, and ceramics). Mining, smelting, and refining activities have resulted in substantial increases in lead levels in the environment, especially near mining and smelting sites.

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Summary of the Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent

The 2014 and 2015 investigations conducted by EPA and the state of Washington found that the average lead concentration at these properties was four times higher than the cleanup level set by EPA. The maximum observed lead concentration was approximately eight times higher than the cleanup level. Based on interviews with residents, aerial photography, and field visits, the samples were taken in areas with a high potential for exposure to lead and arsenic via soil ingestion to residents, especially young children and gardeners. These investigations resulted in EPA’s Region 10 Seattle office issuing a time-critical removal Action Memorandum to address the exposure threats at these properties.

The administrative settlement agreement and order on consent (ASAOC) requires Teck to conduct the removal action on the 14 residential properties that have high levels of lead contamination resulting from discharges from the Trail smelter and one tribal allotment with lead contamination below the cleanup level, but which Teck agreed to address nonetheless under the ASAOC. Three other Colville tribal allotments that qualify for cleanup will be addressed by Teck at a later date.

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Contact Information

For information contact

Elizabeth McKenna
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Region 10
Office of Regional Counsel
1200 6th Avenue, Suite 900
Seattle, Washington  98101

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