Teck liable for Columbia River clean-up in Washington state, judge rules

Teck liable for Columbia River clean-up in Washington state, judge rules by The Canadian Press, December 15, 2012, The Globe and Mail
Teck Resources treated the Columbia River as a free waste disposal system for decades, said a Washington state judge who has ruled the Canadian company is liable for the cost of cleaning up the contamination of the river south of the border. In a decision announced late Friday, Judge Lonny Suko ruled that, “for decades Teck’s leadership knew its slag and effluent flowed from Trail downstream and are now found in Lake Roosevelt, but nonetheless Teck continued discharging wastes into the Columbia River.” Judge Suko noted an admission from the company that it “had been treating Lake Roosevelt as a ‘free,’ ‘convenient’ disposal facility for its wastes.” The decision gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the ability to force Teck to pay for the clean-up, and potentially for any ongoing damages and losses that result from the ongoing contamination. That issue has yet to be determined by the court. Judge Suko found that from 1930 to 1995, Teck intentionally discharged at least 9.97 million tons of slag that included heavy metals such as lead, mercury, zinc and arsenic. The judge also found that Teck knew the hazardous waste disposed of in the Columbia River was likely to cause harm.

“We are very pleased with this outcome,” John Sirois, chairman of the Colville Business Council, said in a statement. “Now that the Court has found that Teck is liable for its contamination of the Columbia River, we look forward to its participation in cleaning it up and paying for any resulting damages.” The company said Friday that the amount of those costs will be determined in a subsequent phase of the case. Under a 2006 agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency a remedial study is expected to be completed in 2015. The next phase of the case is not expected to proceed until those studies are complete. The company said based on their own studies to date, they believe “the compensible value of any damage will not be material.” “(Teck American Inc.) continues to work the with Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Washington, local tribes and others on studies in the Upper Columbia River, which to date have generally shown that the water in the river system meets applicable water quality standards in both Canada and the United States, that the beaches are safe for recreational activities, and that the fish in the river system are as safe or safer to eat than fish in other water bodies in Washington state,” Teck said in the statement. However, they acknowledged that the costs may be “material.” “Until the studies and additional damage assessments are completed it is not possible to estimate the extent and cost, if any, of any remediation or restoration that may be required, or to fully assess (Teck Metals Ltd.’s) potential liability for damages,” said the statement.

After eight years of litigation, the company admitted on the eve of a trial last fall that for a century the smelter, operated on the banks of the Columbia in Canada, dumped slag and effluent into the river. Lead, mercury, arsenic and a myriad of other hazardous materials washed downstream, contaminating the river south of the border. It’s a landmark case that could have implications for mining and other industrial interests on both sides of the border. The Canadian government, the province of British Columbia and the U.S. National Mining Association have all intervened in the case to argue that the issue should be resolved bilaterally.

The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear Teck’s appeal.
Teck argued that the U.S. law that forces companies to clean up contamination sites was never intended to reach across the international border. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to: 171,000 frac’d wells later, the Alberta energy regulator, the ERCB (previously EUB, soon to be AER) trots out Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Directive

North Dakota Turns Blind Eye to Dumping of Fracking Waste in Waterways and Farmland, Releases of drilling and fracking waste, which is often laced with carcinogenic chemicals, have wiped out aquatic life in streams and wetlands

EnCana dumping waste from deviated drilling at 14-12-27-22 W4M near Hamlet of Rosebud, Alberta, November 18, 2012

EnCana heavy waste dumping November 2012, facing west towards the Encana 05-14 gas well that was repeatedly fractured directly into Rosebud drinking water aquifers in 2004 without community consultation first

CAPP’s 2006 Best Management [Voluntary] Practices for NGC/CBM:  “Drilling fluids are transported, stored and handled in tanks. Typically, drilling fluid waste will be transported off-site for re-use and treatment/disposal…. Drilling mud includes a number of additives to maintain the fluid at desired viscosities and weights. Some additives may be caustic, toxic, or acidic.”

Alberta Landspraying While Drilling (LWD) Review Public Lands and Forests Division, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development December 2003, released three years later in 2006, only after FOIP and public pressure.

Suffield Files Reveal Disturbing Story of Environmental Degradation, Non-compliance by Energy Companies and Industry Giant EnCana ]

This entry was posted in Global Frac News, Other Legal. Bookmark the permalink.