Upper Columbia River Study Area
On this page:
- Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study
- Site Background
- Community Technical Assistance
In July 2022, EPA and Teck American, Inc., finalized a schedule to complete a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study. These studies are underway as part of the 2006 Settlement Agreement between Teck and EPA (see Site Background).
The Remedial Investigation establishes the nature and extent of contamination and includes findings from human health and ecological risk assessments.
The Feasibility Study develops, screens, and evaluates cleanup actions to address risks identified in the river, lake, or uplands.
The Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study are funded by Teck through the current settlement agreement. There is currently no settlement agreement for funding of the cleanup.
Human Health Risk Assessment
The Human Health Risk Assessment was completed in 2021. Lead in residential soil is the primary concern for people’s health and the environment. We found that upland soils contain lead in concentrations that pose potential risks to residents in some areas.
Public beaches and the river are safe for recreation, except for Bossburg Beach.
EPA also hosted public webinars on June 10 and July 15, 2020, to discuss to results of the assessment. You can watch a recording of EPA's July 10 presentation (YouTube).
Ecological Risk Assessments
In addition to the Human Health Risk Assessment, two Baseline Ecological Risk Assessments are also underway.
Upland Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment
The Upland Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment evaluates risks to plants and wildlife exposed to contaminants such as zinc, cadmium, and lead in upland areas above the river.
EPA released its Final Upland Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment in December 2023. The assessment concluded that concentrations of nine metals pose unacceptable risks to plants, invertebrates, mammals, and birds exposed to soil in the upland area. Cadmium, lead, and zinc present the greatest and most widespread risk. Most impacted areas are remote and relatively steep.
Teck submitted a dispute on January 19, 2024. EPA and Teck are currently discussing Teck's concerns on the document.
Aquatic Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment
The Aquatic Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment, expected in spring 2024, will evaluate risk to plants, wildlife, fish, and other organisms in and along the river from contaminants such as zinc, copper, cadmium, mercury, and lead found in sediment and slag.
Comprehensive surface water sampling was completed by Teck throughout the Upper Columbia River area to assess concentrations of metals during various river conditions. All water samples were below human health and ecological surface water screening levels. In addition, regular testing of water in the Columbia Basin project, including irrigation water, indicates surface water meets drinking water standards.
EPA has completed several rounds of cleanups on properties with the greatest contamination and potential health risk. In 2022, we completed soil cleanups at 15 residential properties in Northport, with assistance from the Washington Department of Ecology.
To date, EPA has cleaned up 59 residential and common use properties in Northport, and Teck has cleaned up 18 additional properties and one Tribal allotment.
EPA has prioritized cleanups on residential properties that pose the greatest risk, and we anticipate that more than 150 residential properties could be eligible for cleanup in the future.
Upland Feasibility Study
The upcoming Upland Feasibility Study will define the areas needing cleanup and evaluate a range of cleanup alternatives to address risks to people’s health and the environment.
Past studies by federal and state agencies have shown increased levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, copper, mercury and zinc, and other contaminants like dioxins and furans.
In August 1999, the Colville Confederated Tribes petitioned EPA to conduct an assessment of environmental contamination in the Upper Columbia River. The petition expressed concerns about risks to people’s health and the environment from contamination in the river.
In 2001, EPA collected samples of river sediment to learn more about the types and amounts of pollution that exists. The results showed that contamination is present in the lake and river sediments, and that a more detailed investigation is needed to evaluate possible risks to human health and the environment.
In 2006, Teck American, Inc. signed an agreement with EPA to pay for a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study. The study area covers approximately 150 miles of the Columbia River, from the Grand Coulee Dam to the U.S.-Canada border, and contaminated adjacent uplands.
Many site documents are available online, including technical reports, legal documents, and fact sheets.
- Reports and Documents
- Administrative Records (What is an Administrative RecordA compilation of documents supporting an administrative action; under Superfund, administrative actions often compel Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) to undertake or pay for hazardous waste site cleanups.?)
Some documents are also available on Teck American's Upper Columbia River Project website.
Community information repositories
Information about this project is also available at the following locations throughout the project area. Each location has the same information, including copies of technical documents, fact sheets, and other site information. Before you visit, please call ahead for business hours.
- Northport: Northport Town Hall, 315 Summit St., 509-732-4450.
- Colville: Colville Public Library, 195 S. Oak Street, 509-684-6620.
- Nespelem: Office of Environmental Trust, Bldg. #2, Colville Confederated Tribes, 1 Colville, 509-634-2413.
- Grand Coulee: Grand Coulee Library, 225 Federal Street, 509-633-0972.
- Wellpinit: Spokane Tribe Department of Natural Resources, 6290 D Ford-Wellpinit Road, 509-626-4425.
- Spokane: Spokane Library, 906 W. Main, 509-444-5336 (digital collection only).
EPA’s national Technical Assistance Services for Communities program provides independent assistance through an EPA contract to help communities better understand the science, regulations and policies of environmental issues and EPA actions. Under the program, a contractor provides scientists, engineers and other professionals to review and explain information to communities. This assistance supports community efforts to get more involved and work productively with EPA to address environmental issues.
EPA has awarded Citizens for a Clean Columbia with a technical assistance contract funded by Teck American to participate in the RI/FS process. For more information, visit Citizens for a Clean Columbia.
Learn more about EPA's Technical Assistance Services for Communities Program
- Julie Congdon (firstname.lastname@example.org), 206-553-2752, EPA Community Involvement Coordinator.
- Kristin Ching (email@example.com), 206-553-2806, EPA Community Involvement Coordinator
- Bonnie Arthur (firstname.lastname@example.org), 206-553-4072, EPA Project Manager.
- Robert Tan (email@example.com), 206-553-2580, EPA Project Manager.
For site contacts at the Washington Department of Ecology, visit Ecology's Upper Columbia River/Lake Roosevelt website.