OLYMPIA -- Gov. Gary Locke and Attorney General Christine Gregoire today joined the Colville Confederated Tribes in their lawsuit aimed at forcing the Teck Cominco mining company to clean up Lake Roosevelt.
“We are joining the lawsuit because we believe that implementing the EPA order is the quickest way to complete the studies and begin cleaning up the lake,” Locke said. “We prefer not to use the legal route, but we are doing so because we must protect our state’s interests in this issue.”
“Teck Cominco can’t send highly toxic pollution across the Canadian border and then insist that border protects them from liability,” Gregoire said. “They created one big mess here in the U.S., and they should clean it up, not Washington taxpayers.”
Under the federal Superfund law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Teck Cominco last December to clean up the toxic metals that for decades were released into the lake from the company’s smelter in Trail, B.C. The order calls on the company to first study the extent of the contamination and then pay for the cleanup.
Individual members of the Colville Confederated Tribes, whose reservation borders the lake, sued Teck Cominco in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington in July for failing to comply with that order. By joining the suit, the state is seeking the implementation of the EPA order to complete the studies and begin the process of cleanup.
Teck Cominco has argued that the Superfund law was never intended to apply to foreign companies.
The state wants the shoreline and bottom sediments of Lake Roosevelt to be cleaned up to the standards necessary to protect both human health and the environment from the effects of heavy-metals pollution, said Department of Ecology Director Linda Hoffman.
“We support EPA’s effort to require Teck Cominco to determine the nature and extent of the contamination, so an appropriate cleanup strategy can be pursued,” Hoffman said.