For decades the townspeople of Northport have been battling in a border war. Just to the North in Canada, the Teck Cominco smelter filled the air and water with toxic emissions for decades. Some residents are convinced it made them sick.
U.S. investigators found toxins in the Columbia River and in the air they believe spew from the smelter, but no large spikes of illnesses have been reported - until now.
"Some of them have chronic, chronic diarrhea, some have bleeding, loss of appetite, it can be very debilitating and some people have to multiple, multiple surgeries," said Linda Huse, Regional Dir., Crohn's & Colitis Foundation
That's Linda Huse describing the affects of Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis, two similar gastrointestinal diseases that are showing up in Northport at 10 to 15 times the average rate.
Federal scientists have done years of studies but now researchers from Harvard want to find out if the smelter may be causing the disease cluster in Northport.
For Crohn's / Colitis sufferers it means a new chance to find a cause.
"Very exciting. Obviously a lot more has to be done to find out exactly what happened, what exactly the environmental factors are in this smelting operation that took place,” said Huse.
U.S. investigators say they have evidence the smelter emissions turned the tan sand on Columbia River beaches a thick black color. They believe it is in the tissue of fish and in the air, but they have not been able to link it to human illness.