Report Submitted to the Trail Smelter Arbitral Tribunal Page: III
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The damage to vegetation in parts of Washington State by sulfur
dioxide emitted by the smelters of the Consolidated Mining & Smelt-
ing Co. of Canada, Ltd., at Trail, British Columbia, has been the
source of much international litigation for a number of years.
From 1928 to 1931. the main emphasis was upon the assessment and
award of damages. The amount of the damage was determined by an
International Joint Commission, consisting of members appointed by
the Canadian and United States Governments, which functioned in
this capacity from 1909 to 1935. In 1929, a weather-observing station
was set up by the United States Weather Bureau just south of the
International Boundary, at Northport, Wash. Although observa-
tions were taken for a year, these never were used to make a detailed
investigation of the air movements in that part of the Columbia River
In 1931, the smelter began to take remedial measures by converting
a fraction of the sulfur dioxide into sulfuric acid. The installation
of acid plants reduced the quantity of sulfur dioxide discharged to the
atmosphere and permitted a certain amount of variation in its rate of
emission. In 1934, that rate was varied according to the general
meteorological conditions in the valley, as deduced from visual obser-
vations. In 1935, the two Governments set up an Arbitral Tribunal,
the duties of which were (1) to determine whether or not the Trail
Smelter was causing damage in the State of Washington, and, if so,
whether compensation should be paid; and (2) to determine whether
or not an operating regime for the smelter could be developed which
would prevent any future damage in Washington. The Tribunal, be-
lieving that an adequate regime, based on scientific meteorological
criteria, might be devised, ordered (in 1938) that comprehensive studies
of atmospheric conditions in the Columbia River Valley near Trail
The fundamental problem to be solved is as follows:
What, precisely, are the atmospheric conditions in the valley that
will allow large quantities of sulfur dioxide to be emitted to the at-
mosphere without the possibility of damage to vegetation in Washing-
ton? The converse question also arose: What are the atmospheric
conditions that permit such high concentrations of sulfur dioxide that
damage is caused in Washington? When the answers to these ques-
tions are fully known, it will be possible to control the output of sulfur
dioxide in such a manner as to avoid damage to vegetation. When
meteorological conditions favor rapid diffusion of the gas, large
amounts of sulfur dioxide may be safely discharged. On the other
hand, when meteorological conditions are such that the gas diffuses
very slowly, only very small amounts of sulfur dioxide may be emitted.
The aim of this investigation, ordered by the Tribunal, has been to
determine these meteorological factors, to study their correlation with
atmospheric diffusion processes, and finally to present to the Tribunal
a regime of operation that would provide a reasonable guarantee of
protection against damage to United States interests across the Inter-
national Boundary by emissions from the Trail Smelter.
The first part of this report discusses the details of the plant equip-
ment and procedure. At smelters where sulfur dioxide is not utilized
in the manufacture of byproducts, that formed during the roasting
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Dean, R. S. & Swain, R. E. Report Submitted to the Trail Smelter Arbitral Tribunal, report, 1944; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc12613/m1/3/: accessed February 15, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.