Teck in court over chemical spills

Incidents occurred in 2013 and 2014

Teck Metals appeared in Rossland Provincial Court on Monday, facing fines following two separate chemical spills into the Columbia River.

According to the provincial court registry, the company was expected to plead guilty to multiple counts of depositing deleterious substance as well as failing to comply with a permit and introduction of business-related waste into the environment.

Teck Metals was also listed as “FA” (first appearance) on three additional charges stemming from one of the incidents.

The company was charged under the Environmental Management and Fisheries Act in May.

Teck Trail Operations withheld comment pending a conclusion of court proceedings.

Court was still in session at press time, and a continuance was expected through to Tuesday afternoon.

Watch the Trail Times for further developments later this week.

“We take these incidents very seriously,” Carol Vanelli Worosz, Teck’s community engagement leader, told the Trail Times following the charges. “A full investigation took place immediately following both incidents and changes to equipment and operating procedures took place to prevent re-occurrence.”

Both cases date back two years. The first being Dec. 22 (2013) when water containing zinc dust overflowed into a drain then the effluent was released into the river at an outfall point.

Teck reported initial sampling indicated 250 kilograms (kg) of the heavy metal was detected compared to the daily limit of 175 kg. That concentration exceeds the maximum permitted level by about 40 per cent.

The plant’s monitoring system detected the incident and operations were immediately shut down to correct the source, Vanelli Worosz said at the time.

“While the cause was corrected in about 30 minutes, the plants didn’t restart until the following day,” she explained. “We waited for confirmation from our monitoring that the incident had been completely addressed.”

One month later, the second spill occurred.

On Jan. 28, 2014, up to 25,000 litres of an alkaline chemical solution was discharged into Trail’s domestic sewer line, which leads to the regional district’s sewage treatment plant for eventual released into Bear Creek and the Columbia River.

A complete review of Teck Trail Operations’ sanitary sewer lines was undertaken to confirm all piping configurations were accurate, and Vanelli Worosz confirmed the containment area drain system was isolated and permanently disconnected from the sanitary sewer system.

Trail operations has three outfalls to the river that are monitored to detect and allow response to abnormal readings.

The company maintains the spills did not cause risk to human health and placed no long term impacts on fish or the environment.

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