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Teck Cominco tells U.S. EPA to butt out

  • June 17, 2005 9:11 pm

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Teck Cominco Metals Ltd. has rejected any U.S. Environmental Protection Agency jurisdictional claims over its Trail smelter.

It will likely ratchet up the dispute to another level, and Ottawa and Washington know about the dispute. The EPA said Teck operations in Canada had to formally submit to U.S. law within 30 days over alleged pollution of the Columbia River.

The EPA is demanding Teck pay to study the effects of heavy metal pollution from its smelter in Trail on the river that also flows into Lake Roosevelt in northeastern Washington state.

Tom Eaton, head of EPA operations in Washington state, previously said Teck’s proposed studies were not up to U.S. standards, not credible and that Teck did not want to be held to the same standards as U.S. polluters.

It is estimated the smelter has dumped about 20 million tonnes of waste slag containing smelting byproducts into the river, some of which may have ended up on beaches near Northport, Wash., perhaps posing a health problem.

“There is no precedent, nor the legal right for the EPA to apply its regulations on a company operating legally in Canada,” said Doug Horswill, the Vancouver-based firm’s senior vice-president, environment and corporate affairs. “One can imagine the outrage in the U.S. if the Canadian government attempted to impose its own regulation on a company operating legally in the U.S.”

He also said he understands Ottawa has formally voiced its concerns to Washington over the situation.

Despite rejection of the demand, Teck says it is standing by an offer made last November to contribute $13 million U.S. to research studies to assess human health and ecological concerns about pollution in the lake.