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Colville tribes earn environmental award

Ex-mayor of Quincy also gets recognition from Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is honoring the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and a former mayor of Quincy for their work to protect the environment.

The tribes are receiving a watershed heroes award this week and former Mayor Patty Martin will get an environmental justice award.

The tribes filed a lawsuit against Teck Metals Ltd., seeking to hold the Canadian company responsible for polluting the Columbia River with industrial waste from its smelter in Trail, B.C.

A federal judge in the United States found Teck liable in December 2012, according to John Osborn of the Sierra Club’s Upper Columbia River Group.

Cleanup has been estimated at $1 billion. Teck is spending $55 million to study the effects of the pollution and how much cleanup is needed.

The company has argued that the effects of the pollution are not serious. The Sierra Club said the waste includes metals such as mercury, cadmium, zinc, copper and lead, as well as arsenic.

Tribal Chairman John Sirois, in a statement issued Monday, said it was time for Teck to be held accountable.

In a separate environmental justice award, Martin is being recognized for her efforts to protect Columbia Basin communities from the effects of pollution and water use tied to the operation of large, high-tech data centers.

Diesel engines that provide backup power are a health hazard in areas near the data centers. Martin led efforts to challenge the state Department of Ecology, Microsoft and others on environmental issues, including use of groundwater for cooling and the electrical demand the centers place on hydropower resources. Microsoft’s data center, built in 2006, is near an elementary school, making the diesel emissions a public health issue.

The awards will be delivered Saturday.

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