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Down To Earth

Slag on the beach - meeting on the 14th

Maui it isn't.

A beach area on the Upper Columbia River known as the Black Sand Beach because of an industrial byproduct discharged into the Columbia River from a metals smelting facility in Trail B.C. is scheduled to begin being cleaned up in the fall of 2010. 

But first, the public is being asked to review and comment on formal documents that will guide the removal of the black slag from the beach that sits on the eastside of the Upper Columbia, three miles south of the Canadian border and north of Northport.
*Photo from Department of Ecology site.

The documents include a draft work plan that includes what’s called a “60 percent engineering design” that provides details of how the removal will take place. They also include State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) documents ensuring that the work is beneficial to the environment. Comments will be accepted Jan. 4 through Feb. 5, 2010.

The industrial slag that gives the beach its black appearance is a byproduct discharged into the Columbia River from the Teck Metals Ltd. (formerly Teck Cominco) smelting plant.  The slag contains hazardous substances including zinc, lead, copper, arsenic, cadmium and other metals that cannot be removed from normal processing.  In a release from the Department of Ecology, they say, "some of the metals harm the health of the river and aquatic life," though no metals in the river and on the beach are good. 

A public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010, at the Northport High School, 408 10th St. in Northport. The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and Teck American Inc. (Teck) in Spokane will provide an overview of the project and answer questions from the public.

In the fall of 2010, approximately 5,000 cubic yards of granulated slag will be removed and transported for recycling to Teck’s Trail smelter facility. Teck has agreed to remove and recycle the slag to avoid continued erosion and movement of the material into the river.  Teck will place clean, natural fill material where contaminated sediments were removed. The new beach will contain a combination of sand, gravel, and a coarser cobble-sized material.

The public can see the documents for the slag removal at the Department of Ecology’s office in Spokane at 4601 North Monroe St. by calling Kari Johnson at 509-329-3415, or on-line at They also are available at the Northport Community Library, the Kettle Falls Public Library and the Colville Public Library.

Comments and technical Questions should go to Chuck Gruenenfelder, 509-329-3439; e-mail: .

Down To Earth

The DTE blog is committed to reporting and sharing environmental news and sustainability information from across the Inland Northwest.