Cross Border River Pollution Case In Hands of Judge

Oct 10, 2012

The question of whether a smelter in British Columbia can be held liable in Washington state for cross border pollution is now in the hands of a federal judge. Lawyers argued the case in Yakima Wednesday. At issue is refining waste dumped in the Columbia River just north of the border in Canada, which then washed downstream. Correspondent Tom Banse reports from Yakima.

A platoon of corporate, tribal and state attorneys argued for a full day whether Canadian smelter owner Teck Metals can be hauled into a U.S. court to answer for pollution permitted by British Columbia. The historic smelter waste contained toxic metals including lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. Lawyers for the Colville Tribes claim Teck knew the fast-moving Columbia River would carry its pollution into Washington and therefore can be held liable here. Teck Metals vigorously disputes the jurisdiction. Colville tribal leader John Sirois says the long-running case has reached “a significant point.”

John Sirois: “If this decision is favorable – and we certainly expect it to be – I think it is going to mark a certain milestone in this process to finally get some action on the river to clean it up.”

Federal district court judge Lonny Suko indicated he would take his time issuing his ruling. The big smelter in the small town of Trail, British Columbia stopped disposing slag and slurry in the Columbia in 1995. I’m Tom Banse in Yakima.