The Cully Air Action Team, previously known as the Cully Stink Team, was started in early 2015 to address ongoing air pollution and toxicity in Portland’s Cully neighborhood. The Cully neighborhood is the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in all of Oregon, and includes many elderly and economically vulnerable people as well. It stretches roughly, from NE 42nd Ave to NE 82nd, and from NE Prescott to the contaminated Columbia Slough. The neighborhood is well-known for vegetable and flower gardens, large and beautiful trees, and oversize yards. Formerly, Cully was an agricultural area owned by Thomas Cully, and before that an important area for Native people that included the Chinook village of Neerchokikoo (Whitaker Ponds.)
Due to adverse planning that regarded residents as second-class citizens, industrial development was located along the Columbia Slough, and a large dump placed near the Union Pacific rail line. Some of these areas have been remediated, including the new Thomas Cully Park, while others allowed to continue polluting the air and groundwater.
To address the recurrent noxious odors, the Cully Stink Team has focused much of it’s efforts on the Porter W. Yett asphalt facility, just south of the rail line by NE Cully Blvd. and NE Columbia Blvd. This facility uses bitumen from the Athabasca Tar Sands region. These petrochemical products comprise some of the dirtiest carbon resources currently in use and their refining has led to a cancer epidemic among the Athabasca, the Peace River and other First Nation peoples of Alberta, Canada. In making asphalt, the Porter Yett facility releases sulfur compounds, benzene and other VOC/PAHs, carbon monoxide, and PM2.5 and PM10. Some of these compounds are carcinogenic and the others can cause respiratory difficulties and diseases including emphysema, bronchitis and asthma. Synergistic effects have, of course, been poorly researched.
Porter Yett is just one of numerous industrial polluters, including Boeing, the Oregon National Guard, and Owens Brockway glass recycling. Cully residents have repeatedly contacted Oregon State DEQ officials, filed verbal and online complaints and spoke with local elected officials about odors and toxicity. The DEQ’s response has been inadequate. The DEQ seems conditioned to weigh industrial concerns with more emphasis than local community members health concerns. We are pushing for a shift away from this legislative danger, aware that many of these pollutants have negative long-term health effects as well as short-term negative comfort effects.
We want, at a minimum, for the DEQ to represent people and protect the health of the community. We want consistent monitoring, unannounced in advance to industries, to identify point source contaminants and all carcinogens. We want effective regulations imposed to eliminate these poisons and carcinogens from entering the environment.
Cully has recurring and severe airborne stink events. Numerous complaints have been filed with DEQ yet nothing has been done to address the current airborne stink event. As taxpayers, homeowners, community members, locavore farmers, gardeners, and breathers we demand the DEQ move swiftly to eliminate carcinogens and other pollutants that are dumped, pumped, or combusted into the Cully biosphere.
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