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Teck to Pay for Black Sand Beach Clean Up

by Sophia Aldous
The Statesman-Examiner, July 7, 2010

Last week, a public meeting was held to discuss Teck Re sources (formerly Teck Cominco) clean-up efforts of the so-called Black Sand Beach near Northport. The meeting was a step toward combating a century's worth of pollution dumped into the Columbia River by the Canadian smelter from the late 1800s until 1995, when the Canadian government ordered the com pany to stop.

Representatives from Teck, Washington Department of Ecology (DOE), and local ac tivists and interested citizens attended last Tuesday's meeting at the Community Colleges of Spokane Colville Center.

"Work crews will excavate around 5,000 cubic yards of slag from the beach in the fall when the water (Lake Roosevelt) is low," said Chuck Gruenenfelder, a Hydrogeologist from the DOE. "It is a small portion of slag, but it is something that needs to be done and we feel it is a step in the right direction."

Slag, a byproduct of the smelting process, contains heavy metals like zinc, arsenic and lead. The cost of the clean up project is estimated to be around $1 million, though Teck representative Mark Adzie didn't give a total monetary sum at the meeting.

According to the DOE's web site, "The State of Washington believes it is in the public's best interest to remove the slag from Black Sand Beach and replace it with clean fill material for the following rea sons:

  1. Slag is an industrial waste and contains hazardous substances including zinc, lead, copper, and other metals that cannot be removed from the slag in normal processing;
  2. Certain metals in slag harm the health of the river and aquatic life. Removing slag will be protective of the eco logical environment - the health of the river and aquatic life;
  3. The beach is a popular spot for swimming, fishing, camping, and other recrea tional activities. Removal also provides a cleaner beach for recreation."
A project that needs to be done

Members of Citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC), a local non-profit activist group, were also in attendance.

"I agree that it is a project that needs to be done, but it feels like it took someone a long time to stop dragging their feet and do the right thing," said CCC member Eleanor Mattice after the meeting. "I don't think they (Teck) would have done any thing if people hadn't raised their voices and said, 'Stop polluting the river.' I think they would still be dumping stuff in it if they could."

During Washington State's last legislative session, DOE received $2 million to perform clean-up at Black Sand Beach. When Teck Resources heard about the project, the com pany offered to finance the work. Because Teck will recy cle the slag, clean-up costs were cut in half.

"I think the meeting went well," said Adzie. "Everyone was polite and I think a lot of good questions were asked and answered."

According to studies done on the Upper Columbia River by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2005, which focused on contamination from pesticides and heavy metals, the river was safe for rec reational use, like swimming, two weeks out of a year.

The EPA will conduct additional testing this sum mer to conclude if people and animals are at risk from the pollution.

Though results will drive future clean-up work, Gruenenfelder said the EPA's efforts are separate from the Black Sand Beach clean-up, which is being directed by the state.

Sophia Aldous
Teck to Pay for Black Sand Beach Clean Up
The Statesman-Examiner, July 7, 2010

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