All posts by BigNose

Environmental activist, K-12 educator, world traveler and sometime poet.

Here is  short update from CAAT:

The Porter Yett facility, source of much of the asphalt nuisance odors in Cully, has purchased and is installing a Blue Smoke reduction device. This may solve many of the nuisance odor problems. In the meantime, please remember to file nuisance odor complaints with DEQ via phone at 1-888-997-7888. This is important because a ‘decrease’ or ’no change’ in complaints will allow DEQ to gauge the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the new equipment.

CAAT is working with Neighbors for Clean Air and PSU to install four ambient metal air monitors in Cully. The four monitors are now sited in four of Cully’s gracious neighbors yards. Thank you to those Cully residents! The monitors will test for metals that have been dumped into our airshed, such as the lead particles from Owens-Illinois Glass recycling. Finding will be analyzed by PSU graduate students under the direction of Dr. Linda George, a professor at PSU. We expect data and results by the end of the year. DEQ will also site one of their full-air toxics monitors to test for volatile organic compounds, VOC’s (!!!yaaay!!!) in winter 2017-18.

Metals are dangerous because the can create massive problems in the human body when bio-accumulated. They can float through the air as ambients, and cover food crops, and lodge themselves in the soil. VOC’s, like paint thinners, are highly carcinogenic and some are mutagenic. Ambient metals and VOCs also cause respiratory distress, reduced immunological response to colds and viruses, and are indicated in ADHD (cadmium) and causatives for childhood neurological changes and disorders (lead, cadmium, et al.)

Cleaner Air Oregon (CAO), the omnibus statewide shift in how Oregon deals with air pollutants, suffered a setback in the 2017 legislative session in Salem. But, it is still moving forward due to an increased awareness and understanding, and urgency, for public health concerns. The setback primarily regards funding DEQ’s implementation of CAO at the state level. One additional area of concern being debated currently regards an increase in the number of cancer deaths allowed in a population living near new and existing polluters. CAAT, and other grassroots organizations, are pressuring DEQ to not make this change in Cleaner Air Oregon legislation. It is called ‘Risk Action Levels’ and this assessment for cancer death levels should be decreased, not increased. Please contact your State Representatives, and Governor Brown, and tell them to decrease the proposed ‘Risk Action Levels’, not increase them. The burden here is on the public, for cancers, other pollution related illnesses, and for paying for treatments. Polluting industries must use the best technology available to move towards zero toxic emissions.

With a great sense of sadness, CAAT saw intern Miguel Torres-Mondragon leave due to family issues. Miguel helped CAAT with organizing Spanish speaking Cully residents. CAAT, and Living Cully, are interviewing new interns for outreach to diverse communities and to promote Environmental Justice (EJ.) This position is being funded by a grant from our good friends, Neighbors for Clean Air.

CAAT is trying to do a lot! But we still need to research National Guard and Port of Portland pollution, PCB contamination of Johnson Lake and the Columbia Slough, and particulate matter (PM), ‘black soot’, pollution from industry, trains, diesel trucks and busses, and highways.

Finally, CAAT needs you. CAAT is looking for people who want to become more involved in protecting our local airshed and environs. If interested in a ‘Meet and Greet’ for August/September 2017 please get in touch. Join with CAAT at our Facebook site or by e-mailing  info@cullycleanair.org

Porter Yett to introduce new filtering device

Porter Yett, the asphalt manufacturing facility on Cully Blvd between Portland Highway and Columbia, is the largest source of community nuisance odors complaints to DEQ locally, and one of the main concerns for CAAT in terms of focus. Their releases of noxious odors have long plagued the neighborhood. CAAT has been working with DEQ to pressure the company to take some responsibility for these contaminants and health effects, and to mitigate the odors.

It is with a sense of optimism, tempered by skepticism, that we welcome Porter Yett’s announcement that they will be using a new containment and filtering system called Blue Smoke Control to mitigate odors. Blue Smoke Control seems a promising and innovative system. The new Control system provides a more robust filtering system than the previous odor removal systems used by Porter Yett.

From the company brochure it seems that all production areas, from the entry of aggregate into the boilers for heating, to off-loading the finished asphalt into trucks will be in containment and toxic fumes filtered. Whether or not this truly ameliorates the problems of nuisance odors and toxicity release remains to be seen, or smelled. But CAAT is hopeful that Porter Yett’s initiative on mitigating the stench does work, and we applaud the company for moving to install this technology.

CAAT will continue to closely monitor this new development as the spring and summer paving season, with high asphalt production volumes, commences. It will still remain important for community members to file complaints about any noxious odors with DEQ, so that we at CAAT can follow-up and pressure DEQ into actionable response.

CAAT and OEC to monitor diesel Air Pollution Particulate Matter (PM) in Cully

There is a great deal of focus on Particulate Matter, or PM, these days. PM is a pollutant that comes primarily from soot and smoke. Diesel trucks and aircraft are major sources of PM pollutants. The Cully, Sumner and Parkrose neighborhoods are affected by heavy diesel truck traffic, PDX airport, the rail lines and the 205 freeway. In addition to industrial polluters, these sources contribute large amounts of oil and diesel PM pollution to our neighborhoods. Especially during a temperature inversion, these exhaust and soot fumes can create a dangerous local airborne stink event.

CAAT is teaming up with the Oregon Environmental Council-OEC, to create a monitoring project to determine diesel related PM pollution levels. This project will involve local community members taking measurements in the areas they frequent and walk through. It is an exciting opportunity to get involved and help the local airshed. If you want to participate in this study please contact us and attend our next meeting.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at 6:00 -7:00 pm
Villas de Mariposas Community Room,
5205 NE Killingsworth St., Portland, OR 97218

Particulate Matter is a pollutant where the size of the particle matters. This has to do with how our lungs function while breathing as absorbers of atmospheric oxygen. With smaller PM there is more penetration into sensitive lung tissue. But even the larger PMs can cause difficulties in our lungs, throats and nasal cavities. Premature mortality incidence is associated with this pollutant. Other PM-related health impacts include chronic bronchitis, non-fatal heart attacks, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. In the chart below you can see the how the sizes of PM are related along the top and bottom horizontals. Current areas of regulatory focus are on PM 2.5 (size in microns) and PM 10.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particulates#/media/File:Airborne-particulate-size-chart.svg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particulates#/media/File:Airborne-particulate-size-chart.svg

While there are many kinds of PM, the ones of most import for air pollution monitoring and remedy are Black Carbon PMs. CAAT, OEC, Oregon DEQ and OHC are all beginning to work together to address these issues and to increase protective Oregon state regulations on diesel trucks. Currently Oregon has relatively lax laws regulating diesel trucks, much more permissive of pollutant and PM release than neighboring states. Oregon is far behind both California and Washington state in terms of upgrading diesel engines to meet healthy standards. Large trucking companies have taken advantage of that by dumping their dirtiest trucks here in our state. We will be working together in 2017 to find ways to reduce diesel pollution where it matters most for our health and our community. If you would like to be a part of this discussion please contact us and come to our next few meetings.

Additional Resources:

>>> On-Road Measurement of Emissions from Heavy-Duty Diesel Trucks

>>> Oregon Environment Council Protecting Oregon from Dirty Diesel

>>> Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR): Airborne Particulate Matter and Public Health

>>> Oregon DEQ: Particulate Matter

Is Porter Yett polluting Cully’s air?

pyett_pile
Porter Yett’s pile of toxic materials

CAAT has been working with various state agencies over the past year, reviewing permits and rules, following up on complaints and installing monitors to test for and affirm previous heavy metal contaminations of the Cully area. Last month CAAT received the first round of monitoring data. While the monitors are not testing for VOCs or PM, the results show an alarming spike in nickel from September 26-29th, 2016. In particular, the reading for September 29th was roughly ten times the average for the rest of the months readings. This spike may be an isolated incident dependent on faulty calibration of the monitoring equipment, machine failure, or another cause yet it may also be indicative of a pattern  for spikes in heavy metal contamination. That is why we are insisting that DEQ continue monitoring the quality of the air in the Cully region throughout the next few months.

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DEQ Air Monitor in Cully

Here are the readings:

DEQ Benchmark for Nickel:  4 micrograms per cubic meter, µg/m3. (the amount considered to be safe and acceptable)

General monthly average: .728 µg/m3  (from 10.2 aggregate divided by 14 daily readings)

Nickel spike readings:

9/26/2016 reading    1.57 µg/m3

9/27/2016 reading    2.58 µg/m3

9/28/2016 reading    7.32 µg/m3

9/29/2016 reading    1.33 µg/m3

Clearly, something was happening with nickel distribution into the Cully airshed during this time.

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DEQ Monitoring Data for Cully location Sept. 2016

So, what is nickel anyways? From Wikipedia via the great website Dynamic Periodic Table:

“Most of the nickel absorbed every day by humans is removed by the kidneys and passed out of the body through urine or is eliminated through the gastrointestinal tract without being absorbed. Nickel is not a cumulative poison, but larger doses or chronic exposure may be toxic, even carcinogenic, and constitute an occupational hazard.

In the US, the minimal risk level of nickel and its compounds is set to 0.2 µg/m3 for inhalation during 15–364 days. Nickel sulfide fume and dust are believed carcinogenic, and various other nickel compounds may be as well. Nickel carbonyl [Ni(CO) is an extremely toxic gas. The toxicity of metal carbonyls is a function of both the toxicity of the metal and the off-gassing of carbon monoxide from the carbonyl functional groups; nickel carbonyl is also explosive in air.

People can be exposed to nickel in the workplace by inhalation, ingestion, and contact with skin or eye. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set the legal limit (permissible exposure limit) for the workplace at 1 mg/m3 per 8-hour workday, excluding nickel carbonyl. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) specifies the recommended exposure limit (REL) of 0.015 mg/m3 per 8-hour workday. At 10 mg/m3, nickel is immediately dangerous to life and health.” (mg stands for milligrams. 1000 µg = 1 mg.)

How is nickel used in industrial processes?

“Major man-made sources of release of nickel are the combustion of coal and heavy fuel oil. Emissions from refineries and from refinery products (including road tar) are particularly important because of the large amount of refinery fuel oil and residues burnt which contain nickel from the original crude oil. Other sources include emissions from mining and refining operations, municipal waste incineration, and windblown dust. ”  from pollution.unibuc.ro/?substance=22

We know that the Porter Yett facility burns Tar Sands oil regularly, creating nuisance odors over wide areas of Cully. We also know that Tar Sands contains nickel:  “bitumen in the Canadian oil sands contains Vanadium, Nickel, and other metals in significantly larger quantities than occur in most other oils.” Could there be a connection here? Finding the cause of these spikes, the ‘attributable source’, is part of the mystery that confounds DEQ under it’s present regulatory limitations. If the polluter does not admit and list their releases it is difficult to assign blame. There is no obvious ‘smoking gun.’ This makes continued monitoring essential as we attempt to make the Cully airshed safer for everyone and everything that breathes. CAAT will also request DEQ data on any complaints filed concerning asphalt odors during the last week of September 2016. By comparing community complaints with contaminant spikes we may be able ascertain the source and move into the regulatory area where we can stop the contamination from continuing to occur.

The problem with sulfur dioxide

map_pollution_sulfar_dioxidHave you noticed a smell of burnt matches in the air recently, in the morning when you are getting up and watering the tomatoes or getting ready for a morning jog?

Chances are you are smelling the potent industrial pollutant sulfur dioxide, SO2. The pollutant comes from the combustion of tar sands fuel, coal, and petrochemicals. Throughout the Cully air-shed this past summer the smell of SO2 was prevalent and noticeable as a recurrent nuisance. Numerous complaints to the Oregon DEQ have been met with responses ranging from “We don’t know where the SO2 is coming from” to blaming it on asphalt laying and road maintenance taking place in distant down-wind locations. Through inquires to DEQ in the past and careful research of existing permits the Cully Air Action Team does know that Owen-Illinois Brockway (O-I) and Porter Yett both produce SO2 as part of their industrial processes. Control technology does exist to capture and neutralize SO2 yet O-I has been fined by the EPA in the past for lying about installing and using that technology. Porter Yett does have a control unit to capture SO2 although it is unclear if it is operating at all times. The state leaves it to the industry to report any toxic air releases or breakdowns in capture equipment.

Aside from the states inability to determine the source of the pollutant there are other problems with SO2 too. Here is a CDC/ATSDR fact sheet about the health effects of SO2 on humans.

SO2 is primarily associated with acid rain as an environmental pollutant.  There are indications that SO2 is also an indirect greenhouse gas, creating sulphate aerosols that contribute to localized climate change.

The acrid smell comes from the sulfur element and as the aerosol  SO2 disperses it becomes acidic and can damage invertebrates and aquatic life.  SO2 is a known danger. The mystery of where it is coming from needs to be addressed. 

Portland as a municipality likes to portray itself as a leader in being responsive to community members environmental concerns. The Portland Climate Plan mentions our regions “high incidence of respiratory illnesses” and sets an objective for Community Resilience (16B, page 116) to respond to this ‘high incidence of respiratory illness’, but neglects to inform that that diesel pollution levels are exacerbated by other aerial pollutants, such as SO2 and NOX (nitrous oxide.)

I’ll explore the impact of NOX as a pollutant in another article, but if you are smelling burnt matches, that is probably SO2, from a local polluter. It is always important to file a complaint with the DEQ. Right now though, it may be best to close your windows and stay inside awhile to avoid breathing the irritating pollutants. Exercise and garden time may have to wait until the SO2 aerosol cloud dissipates.

Clean air advocates want large glass processing plant to be an environmental model

O-IA group of Cully neighbors is pushing for environmental improvements inside the operation of a large glass recycler on the neighborhood’s eastern edge, as the company seeks a $4 million tax break in the planned upgrade of its furnaces.

Owens-Brockway Glass Container Inc., based in Sumner, is requesting a $4 million tax abatement from the city’s Portland Development Commission as part of a $51 million improvement on their two operating furnaces. The furnaces melt pieces of glass, referred to as cullet, sourced from recycling initiatives, into 1 million bottles each day.

The Cully neighbors want to know if the plant is responsible for the arsenic plume identified in its vicinity through a US Forest Service moss study conducted in 2013 and released in its entirety in June.

While arsenic is not believed to be used in the production of glass at the plant, it may be a byproduct of the production process. Other plumes of arsenic identified through the moss data have been linked to glass factories.

In its most recent permit issued by the Oregon Department for Environmental Quality, Owens-Brockway is allowed to release 249 lbs. of lead into the air, which qualifies it for a Title V permit, the highest level of emissions permitted by the US Environmental Protection Agency and DEQ. Not required by law, the plant has no filtration system for its emissions.

DEQ officials made an unannounced visit on June 28, accompanied by EPA officials. It was determined that so-called “fugitive dust emissions” weren’t being properly handled as cullet made its way from the trucks in which it came to the facility’s conveyor chute for melting. The conveyor was also found to have some holes, and dust particles were escaping.

DEQ issued Owens-Brockway a warning letter, asking that it cover its cullet loads while they go from the truck to the chute for processing, that they perform daily visible emissions inspections and record the results, among other things.

Owens-Brockway officials did not return calls and messages seeking comment by press time.

“I want Owens to follow the same law that I and everyone in this community has to follow,” said Gregory Sotir, a member of the Cully Air Action Team, a group of neighbors working on air quality in Cully. “If they break the laws, they need to be held responsible.”

Concurrently, the Portland Development Commission, which is negotiating the company’s tax abatement request on behalf of the City of Portland, is waiting to hear from company officials about a letter it submitted in conjunction with representatives from a dozen local groups and agencies, including the Cully Air Action Team, environmental justice group Verde, area neighborhood associations, and city, county and state officials.

The letter asked for best-practice emissions filtration at the plant, emissions monitoring onsite, as well as fence line monitoring and monitoring at nearby schools. They asked for company investments in local green space in Sumner, a clean up of the toxic Johnson Lake adjacent to the plant, and local preference in employment practices.

Additionally, the letter writers want Owens-Brockway to go above and beyond their permit and follow health-based standards in their emissions, which would be cutting-edge practice in Oregon industry.

“We’re using this as an opportunity to say to the company, ‘There’s a community that really cares about what’s going on, so are you willing to do something to address this as corporate citizen?’ ” said Andy Reed, Enterprise Zone manager for PDC. “ ‘Are you willing to go above and beyond what’s expected?’ We want the project to move forward but in a responsible way.”

Owens-Brockway, a multinational Fortune 500 company, has a decidedly spotty record in the area of environmental protections. This particular plant had numerous violations in 2012 and 2013 in the regulated opacity levels in the emissions coming out of its smokestacks. It received a penalty totaling $33,200 from DEQ for the violations in July of 2013.

The company, a subsidiary of Owens-Illinois, reached a court settlement with the EPA in 2012 to pay nearly $40 million in an Ohio federal court for environmental violations in Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

Reprinted from the Cully Neighbor News, Cully Association of Neighbors

7/2/2016 Cully Air Action Team Meeting Notes

The Cully Air Action Team met and discussed the items below. If you are interested in joining us for our next meeting please contact us here.
Discussion
1. Regular meetings: We want to meet regularly and have agreed that for now, it works to meet once per month on a Sunday morning for anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.
The next meeting will be Sunday, August 7th, at 10 a.m. Those who can are encouraged to bring a brunchy treat.
2. Collaborations with other groups:
Living Cully: We are currently collaborating with a variety of community groups and organizations, representing the interests of neighbors in Cully around air quality. We are aligned with Living Cully in our efforts to get monitoring in the neighborhood from DEQ. That appears to be moving in the right direction. We will be engaging in weekly check-ins (conference calls) on the monitoring topic to get updates, get our questions answered, etc. These weekly calls are an opportunity to bring up other issues that interest us and that we think DEQ can address, such as the ongoing stink problems with Porter Yett and Tina’s response so far. We want to bring this up in the next conversation as it appears that Nina is more responsive, so maybe she can help us. The next phone call with DEQ is scheduled for Thursday, July 14 at 12 noon and every Thursday thereafter t 12 noon. Gregory, Xan and Alma are invited. Let one of us know if you want to add a question/comment to our list.
Additionally, we’re looking at the things that Xan mentioned in her previous update about that last meeting with DEQ.
We want to continue to collaborate with Living Cully as we feel this has been a very positive experience so far and Tony’s goals for environmental justice is aligned with ours, and the relationship is good.
Portland Clean Air: We have worked with Greg B and Seth W from PCA in the past around permits, mapping, and creating a fact sheet for Cully (this last one is ongoing). PCA conducted some canvassing in our neighborhood and as a result they have an additional 50 or so members who live in Cully. They want to pass the group to us so we plan on a joint communication to invite those folks to join CAAT. Alma is working on that with Greg B from PCA. Thinking that we can plan for a meeting perhaps in late August or September for people interested in joining us. I’ll look into a venue, like a library community room. PCA is also put a spectrometer to measure VOCs in a safe place and it could be moved to Evans since she lives closer to Porter Yett. We’re hoping it could capture the type of data that the DEQ monitors won’t because those monitors only measure metals.
Big Tent Coalition: Xan is in touch with Mary Peveto  of Neighbors for Clean Air and others as part of a coalition looking for statewide solutions to diesel.
Spokes Council: We’re also involved in discussions about a spokes council with PCA, EPAC and other groups. Gregory is our point person for that.
3. Updating the website: Our site needs content! Can you please check it out, check out what’s been posted before and let us know what kind of information would make it more relevant for folks wanting to join our group. Gregory is in the process of updating our name to CAAT. Meanwhile, what else should we include? 

New Moss study released for Cully in June 2016

mossample57thtext

These heavy metal concentrations are from the corner of NE 57th and Portland Highway.

 

mossamplecornfoot

These heavy metal concentrations are from NE Cornfoot Road adjacent to Oregon National Air Guard.

The USFS maps are located here.

What these photographs and maps show are elevated concentrations of heavy metals in our Cully neighborhood. These concentrations may come for a variety of sources including industrial polluters such as Porter Yett, Owens Brockway (just east of map edge), and others.

These monitoring results do not include VOCs, which are a major pollutant from Porter Yett and other industries. The Cully Air Action Team is working to get VOC monitoring up for Summer 2016.

Thanks to our friends at Living Cully/Verde for help with this page.