View of Black Sand Beach

For many decades, the Columbia River was used by the smelter in Trail B. C. as a convenient way to dispose of glassified slag.  An estimated 9100 tons of the material was disposed of into the river from the 1930’s until 1995 when the disposal process was changed to a land-based format.  Early on, no one really cared about the slag.  Later, we were told by the smelter’s owners, Cominco (presently Teck America) that the material had traces of heavy metals, but that it was inert (harmless) in the present glassified form.

When I moved my family to Northport in 1989, I heard of Black Sand Beach and learned that it was a great place for some fishing and a picnic.  I really didn’t realize what it was made of, but after my first visit with my young son, I knew something wasn’t right.  The first thing I noticed was that the water would turn rust red when my son would dig at the waters edge.  Later, we had to remove tiny slivers from his hands.  I later learned it was the glassified slag material.

In the 1990’s it was realized that this material wasn’t inert as we thought.  Since then, the site has still been used actively, but there became a grassroots push to get the site cleaned up.

Evidence of fire on Black Sand BeachThrough the help of the Washington State Department of Ecology and others including Citizens for a Clean ColumbiaTeck America was convinced to clean up the site.  This process was completed this fall.  9100 tons of slag material were removed and hauled to Canada for reprocessing and disposal.  New clean material was hauled in by the  Colville Valley Cement company and the site was rebuilt to its original grade with CLEAN rock, cobble and sand.  The sand is a little coarser than the previous slag material, but having examined the site myself, I feel it was well done.  Even the locals have accepted it, as is evident by the fire building materials found on the site in my recent visit.  If you had any reservations about using the site, rest assured it is much cleaner and safer now, so get out there and enjoy nature!  The beach is located on the east bank of the river above Northport.  Just ask a local and they can give you directions.

About Jim Goodwin

Jim Goodwin has written 4 post in this blog.

Jim Goodwin is a long-time teacher of math and science and coaches at the Northport High School. He is an avid outdoorsman and wildlife photographer. His hobbies include: hunting, fishing, water and cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, backpacking, camping and scuba diving.

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