NESPELEM, Wash., Sept. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- For years the Colville Tribes have fought to protect and clean up the Columbia River. Since 2004, the Tribes along with the State of Washington have been engaged in litigation to hold Teck Metals, Ltd. accountable for releasing hazardous materials into the Columbia River. With less than ten days to trial, mining and smelting giant Teck Metals, Ltd (Teck) conceded that it discharged millions of tons of smelting waste known as slag and other hazardous waste effluent into the Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt from Teck's Trail B.C smelter. It conceded that hazardous substances including lead, zinc, arsenic, and cadmium in those wastes have leached into the environment. With these concessions documented in a signed stipulation, questions that were formerly central to the parties' litigation are now undisputed by Teck, and a one-day streamlined trial will be held without live testimony from witnesses to focus on remaining legal issues.
"Water is at the heart of who we are as a people, and while there are still significant issues that remain to be resolved in this litigation we are pleased with the stipulation, and believe it is a positive step for the Tribes and our River," said Tribal Chairman John Sirois. The Chairman further stated, "The Columbia River is both a National treasure, and the cultural and spiritual center for the Colville peoples. We hope that this litigation will move us forward as we seek to clean up and protect the health of the Columbia River for all of the people who enjoy and depend on it. We are committed to do all that we can to improve the watershed both for this generation and for the coming generations."
"This agreement means that several significant issues which were to be tried are no longer in dispute," agreed Paul Dayton with Short Cressman & Burgess PLLC who represents the Tribes in this matter. Dayton further stated, "after extended litigation in which Teck claimed that its discharges either were entirely inert or passed through the river leaving nothing behind, Teck has now agreed that discharges from its Trail smelter have released hazardous substances into the Columbia River in the United States."
The stipulation was signed on Monday, September 10, 2012, by Federal District Court Judge Lonny R. Suko. The court has scheduled the shortened trial for October 10 in federal district court in Yakima and will be limited to oral arguments that address the two remaining contested matters, whether the court has personal jurisdiction over Teck and the legal question of whether Teck's actions constitute arrangement for disposal of hazardous substances under federal environmental law.
SOURCE Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation