The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation will get their day in court on September 10 against Teck Resources, a Canadian smelter that over the course of a century dumped slag into the Columbia River from its lead-and-zinc operations up in British Columbia.
To this day, The Spokesman-Review reported, the upper Columbia River is lined with beaches of “black sand” along 150 miles that stretch from the Canadian border to the Grand Coulee Dam.
"Our people have been fishers for ages. It's our livelihood—our political connections flow up and down the river," said tribal chairman John Sirois to The Spokesman-Review. "Everything starts from the water—our cultural ways, our beliefs—so you must protect the river."
Nevertheless, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and state of Washington, which is also a party to the lawsuit, will have to prove that the slag, whose 25 compounds include lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, is hazardous, the newspaper said. Teck’s counter-argument is that most of the metals were washed downstream and did not collect above the dam. It also argued that the U.S. law didn’t apply to the Canadian company.
Many of the tribes’ 9,000 members depend on the river for subsistence fishing and harvesting, and their 1.4 million-acre reservation runs along the Columbia River.