Cause of Teck spill under investigation

An investigation to determine the cause of a spill from Teck’s Trail Operations into the Columbia River is underway.

An investigation to determine the cause of a spill from Teck’s Trail Operations into the Columbia River is underway.

The mining giant reported that it exceeded its discharge permit by 1.5 kilograms of cadmium and seven kg of copper last Tuesday.

“Our work to date indicates that a contaminant entered the effluent stream going into the Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) that impacted operation of the treatment process and allowed the elevated levels of cadmium and copper to be carried through the plant and discharged,” said Richard Deane, manager of energy and public affairs with Teck, in an email response to the Times on Sunday.

“The ETP operations staff noticed that the character of the process solution changed. The plant was shut down shortly after.

“Regulatory authorities were notified and an investigation launched to determine the cause and identify corrective measures. We take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously and are continuously working to improve our performance.”

Deane wrote that initial assessments by an environmental consultant indicated the spill didn’t pose a health or safety risk to people, fish or wildlife.

“However there is the potential for temporary and localized minor effects to aquatic algae and insects in the immediate vicinity of the outfall,” he added.

The Effluent Treatment Plant is now back up and running.

Teck is permitted to dispense six kg of copper and four kg of cadmium daily but typically releases about 800 grams of copper and 200 g of cadmium.

In May of this year, Teck agreed to pay $325,000 for discharging mercury into the Columbia River last year, just weeks after leachate from Teck’s lead and zinc smelting operation overflowed into Stoney Creek.

About 14.8 kilograms of solution, containing mercury but largely made up of water, escaped from Trail Operations during the reconfiguration of piping to the Effluent Treatment Plant on Oct. 7, 2010.

One of the pumps in the sump system failed, which allowed solution to overflow to a line that discharges into the Columbia River, exceeding the 400 grams of mercury permitted to flow into the river per day.