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Judge To Consider Cross-Border Columbia River Pollution Case

Tom Banse


YAKIMA, Wash. - Wednesday, a federal judge in Yakima will consider a long-running case about cross border pollution in the Columbia River. The Colville Tribes and the state of Washington are trying to force cleanup of heavy metals dumped in the river for nearly a hundred years by a Canadian smelter.

Lawyers for Teck Metals, the Colville Tribes and state of Washington have agreed on some basic facts. Namely, that Teck's lead and zinc smelter in Trail, British Columbia dumped millions of tons of refining waste into the Columbia River between 1896 and 1995.

What remains in dispute is whether a U.S. court can enforce U.S. pollution laws on a Canadian company operating legally in Canada. Teck argues that's the purview of diplomats -- not a U.S. judge.

Tribal leaders and state attorneys want to hold the smelter owner liable for cleaning up the Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt in northeast Washington. The slag dumped into the river just across the border in British Columbia carried mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic metals downstream.

On the Web:

Colville Confederated Tribes:

Teck Metals - Upper Columbia River FAQ:

Previous coverage:

"U.S. & Canada Crosswise Over Transboundary Waste" (Aug. 2004)

in Trail, BC