A Washington federal judge recently awarded over $8.25 million to the Confederated Colville Tribes for legal fees and environmental studies related to the ongoing litigation between Teck Resources and the aboriginal group.
The Aug. 12 ruling by District Court Judge Lonny Suko addresses past response costs incurred by Colville Tribes since the suit launched in 2004 through to the end of 2013, along with prejudgement interest.
Those costs include about $3.4 million to evaluate the Columbia River for hazardous materials plus related water status studies, and according to the ruling, $4.9 million for legal and expert fees to prove Teck’s liability under CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act).
The decision does not address clean up of the Columbia River or restoration costs, those issues must still be decided by the court.
This latest judgment comes on the heels of another ruling, this one in the U.S. Court of Appeals, that found Teck Resources not liable for historic air pollution that drifted south into Washington State.
To date, Teck Resources has spent $75 million on environmental risk assessment studies in the Upper Columbia under a voluntary agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), company officials said last week.
“Results to date are encouraging,” says Chris Stannell, Teck’s senior communications specialist. “Showing beaches and reservoirs are safe for recreation, water quality is better than standards in both the U.S. and Canada, and fish are as safe as
or safer to eat than those from any other water body in the State of Washington.”
Additionally, Teck conducted 14 cleanups at residential properties in the Northport area last year, under a voluntary settlement agreement with the EPA, he added.
“And are doing additional residential soil sampling in accordance with our agreement with the U.S. EPA.”
Teck has invested more than $1.5 billion at Trail Operations to modernize the facility to improve its operational and environmental performance, Stannell noted.
“As a result of these investments, there has been a 95 per cent decrease in emission of metals to air and water since the mid 1990s.”