BRITISH COLUMBIA The blame for pollution is again being laid at the door of the Trail metallurgical complex belonging to TECK COMINCO. Using decades-old reports from the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment, the (Spokane) Spokesman-Review said the Canadian company was discharging as much as 3.6 tons of mercury into the Columbia River every year.
The reports are extremely misleading, said Doug Horswill, Teck Cominco’s senior VP of environment. He shot back that the company has spent $1 billion over the last 20 years to achieve environmental performance levels that meet the highest health criteria in both Canada and the United States.
Dr. Mark Edwards, environmental manager for Teck Cominco in Trail, said, “The company’s improvements in environmental performance have been extensive. These improvements include reducing by more than 99% annual discharges to water; lowering air emissions by more than 90% in the past 10 years; and expanding employee health and environmental monitoring and public reporting programs in Trail.”
Recent water quality tests by BC Environment, Lands and Water show water quality levels in the Columbia River exceed Canadian government standards. “Mercury levels are now well below all applicable water quality standards for the Columbia River,” Edwards stated. Ongoing testing of fish tissue for mercury shows that levels are well within Canadian standards.
This is the latest salvo in a 100-year-old environmental dispute between the Trail smelter and its U.S. neighbours. In December 2003, CMJ told its Net News readers about the stalemate over water quality in Lake Roosevelt, in Washington State. At that time Teck Cominco offered $13 million to measure and remediate any problems, an offer the company says is still on the table. Instead, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began its own study this month. At issue is whether U.S. environmental cleanup laws can be applied to a company and plant in Canada.