Category Archives: Articles and Essays

Articles and Essay about CAAT and Cully pollution

October 3rd Cleaner Air Meeting

Here is  short update from CAAT, the Cully Air Action Team:

The Porter Yett facility, source of asphalt nuisance odors in Cully, is installing a Blue Smoke reduction device. This may solve the odor problems. In the meantime, please remember to file complaints with DEQ at 1-888-997-7888. 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 monitors are sited in Cully neighbors yards. Thank you to those Cully residents! The monitors will test for metals in our airshed, such as lead particles from Owens-Illinois Glass recycling. Findings will be analyzed by PSU graduate students under the direction of Dr. Linda George, at PSU. We expect data and results in late 2017. DEQ will also site a full-air toxics (including VOC’s) monitors in winter 2017-18.
Some metals are dangerous, creating massive problems in the human body when bio-accumulated. Metals can float through the air as ambients, covering food crops, and collecting 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 (lead, cadmium, et al.)
Cleaner Air Oregon (CAO), the statewide shift in how Oregon deals with air pollutants, suffered a setback in the 2017 legislative session. But, it is still moving forward due to an increased awareness and understanding of public health concerns. The setback 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, called ‘Risk Action Levels’, in Cleaner Air Oregon legislation. Cancer death levels should be decreased, not increased. Please contact your State Representatives, and Governor Brown, and tell them to decrease the ‘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.
CAAT is trying to do a lot! 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. CAAT is looking for people who want to become more involved in protecting our local airshed and environs. Join with CAAT at our Facebook site, https://www.facebook.com/groups/CullyStinkTeam, or by e-mailing  gsotir@cullycleanair.org

Neighbors for Clean Air is hosting a community workshop on effective air advocacy and public comments from 5:30-9 p.m. at the NAYA Cafetorium (5135 NE Columbia Blvd, Portland, OR 97218) on Tuesday, October 3rd. We will be providing dinner, translation services, and childcare for all attendees. Cully’s own CAAT, cullycleanair.org, will be there, as well.

 

Cleaner Air Oregon Advisory Committee Comments

Cleaner Air Oregon Advisory Committee Comments, August 29-30, 2017, Portland OR.

What happens when the economic benefits of pollution determine its regulation? Carol van Strum, a great Oregon resident, asked that question 30 years ago regarding a dangerous wood treatment chemical called Penta. The recent scandal involving Bullseye Glass’s metal contamination of a large swath of SE Portland opened the question up to public debate again, and led, in part, to these CAO regulatory planning sessions. The local community rose up, once again, outraged at Bullseye, and the DEQ, who had failed to protect public health.

The problem is, cost-benefit considerations, like acceptable risk, contain fatal flaws.

Prioritizing profit above community health, allowing paid corporate lobbyists to interfere with local decision-making, and gaming the system with regulatory loopholes, such as self-monitoring, confuse and diminish the regulatory protections which we all require for health and well-being.

The effects are not just nuisance odors which require us to close our windows and stay inside, but these toxins also endanger local wildlife, sabotage cottage industries such as eco-tourism and organic small scale farms, and create chronic neurological health conditions which burden public schools with autism, ADHD, asthma, and other health issues.

These toxic legacies are what CAO originally was designed to eliminate.

I think at this juncture of America culture and reality, we all recognize that racist and classist zoning laws, and institutional corruption, have created an Oregon where marginalized populations have borne the brunt of the effects of carcinogens, mutagens, and toxic irritants.

Marginalized populations have had little awareness of these poisons, virtually no redress, or even a chance to escape the local toxicity. Again, the echoes of Van Strum’s question sound: What happens when the economic benefits of pollution determine its regulation?

Unfortunately, over the past seven months I have watched as these CAO public input sessions have been undercut and pushed down the same old dead-end pathways. I have listened as the lobbyists pled inevitable economic calamities. It seems rather ironic then, that we all getting a kicker from Oregon taxes back next year.

While the latest proposed CAO draft contains many essential modifications to the existing permitting and regulatory structure, increasing cancer fatalities from polluting sources is one that is just not acceptable. Such a proposal has no structural integrity for the future, or for improving community health. There is no reason to give cancer a boost. I believe the public has been quite clear in opposition to elevating cancer deaths from new, or existing, industrial pollution sources.

In Sections 34-245-0080 and 34-245-0230, regarding Conditional Risk Level, often solid regulatory language is followed by loopholes allowing polluters to escape responsible pollution management practices. Section 34-245-0080 page 27 states: “(A) Risk Assessment. The owner or operator must _attempt to_ demonstrate that the source complies with the applicable Source Risk Action Level” I propose striking the words ‘attempt to’. The state must insure TBACT is being used fully and without reservation. I would also propose that ‘Conditional Risk’ permits are issued in a finite amount, say five permits around the state, reflecting the abstractions used in Acceptable Risk formulations for cancer deaths per x number of inhabitants. Once that total permit number is met, new permits must not be issued, or renewed, until one of the ‘conditional risk’ polluters returns to the regulatory fold in which all other companies must reside.

The 270 and 300 day reporting period also seems to me to be far too long. Unless I am misunderstanding 340-245-0050 (c)(8) on page 21 which states the polluter has almost a year to submit a Risk Assessment while they still are emitting poisons, I cannot understand the lack of diligence on the states part to protect the community health with this long and dirty time reporting period.

If the polluter is applying for one of these extraordinary ‘Conditional Risk’ permits, a more imminent relief to the dangers to public health is due. These limitations seem fair to me, and recognize that regulations are not subject to mere economics but must also include community health.

In Section 34-245-0230, page 48 (B)(c)(A), it should be incumbent on the industry to protect the health of the local population rather than have poison release determined by a monetary inability to control release. I cannot burn old tires in my yard because hauling them off to sanctioned dumpsite/recycler is too expensive. And the double whammy of health impacted by future liabilities is quite glaring here. As has often happened with toxic orphan sites, pollution remediation and health costs extrapolate wildly in future projections, with the public taxpayer forced to shoulder undue burdens of tax-funded relief efforts as well as those prior health maladies.

Further along, on page 49 the draft states: “(B) DEQ may consult with OHA, local elected officials, local Indian governing bodies, and state and federal agencies that have jurisdiction in the area of impact, before making a final determination regarding the postponement.” I would propose changing ‘may’ in Sentence One to ‘must’ to insure proper democratic representation of the local community regarding the issuing of any extra ordinary pollution permit allowances.

Section 340-245-0240 defines Source Ambient Monitoring Requirements. The agency should be applauded for inserting strong language and recognizing the local community’s needs and realities. However, the continued procedure of unregulated self-reported monitoring by individual polluting industries needs to be codified to insure compliance with verifiable data results. While DEQ may continue to practice unannounced visits to sites, as long as it has the means to, the sense that monitoring data will be conducted by the polluting industry as they see fit, often with coordination from out-of-state right wing think tanks and others, and whose submittal of data will likely not be challenged by DEQ or anyone else, calls into question the whole nature of permitting and enforcement by the state.

In many other industries, from medicine to education to public safety, to even driving an automobile, rigorous, objective, and verifiable testing and licensing is the norm. DEQ, perhaps in combination with OHA, should be the sole tester and verifier of data sets. Rather than the owner, or a lab he is told to hire by industry insiders, the agency must step in, test and verify, and enforce the laws. If nothing else this would insure equity on the part of the state as to how it deals with her people who seek licensure and industries who pollute and want to choose Oregon for their home.

Gregory Sotir
for the Cully Air Action Team
gsotir@cleanaircully.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.

How Galway’s Trash is Reminsicent of Portland’s Air

I want to share a story about pollution, and the excuses that are made to pretend that ignoring its existence will solve the problem.

I moved to Galway, Ireland, for a spell when I was 25. (If I had my druthers, I would never have left! Ah, immigration!) I arrived on an amazing September day, walking through the center city, pondering how and where I was going to work, where I would live, and what music I would see first. My meanderings took me from Shop Street, to High Street, to Quay Street, the fresh Galway Bay air surrounding me, billowing clouds in the sky, a lighthearted stride and a new beginning.

A walkway led along a tributary to Lough Corrib, which I was admiring, when I came across a fairly thick dam of rubbish – all sorts of plastic trash, a few sneakers, some chunky items I cannot recall – and my image of this beautiful and clean city came crashing down: This could not be the result of one, or even solely a few- days of filth tossed into a river, carried downstream and plugged by a dam that on wetter days would see the water carried over its top. Why was this there?! It’s a city sustained by tourism – doesn’t anyone care to keep up its image, at least?

I decided that I was going to figure out what to do about it.

I walked to the city’s administrative buildings, and spoke with the councilor for the local environment (my terms might be wrong, here, but the man was in charge of keeping the city clean.) I described what I had seen, and he said, “Sure, it’s not usually a problem! September has seen little rain, and most of the year the water carries all that rubbish into the Bay and out to sea!” We then had a discussion about how that wasn’t truly the solution to Galway’s rubbish issues, but I divined that there really wasn’t anyone employed to clean the Lough, and that was that.

So I went to the University College Galway (now NUI) to see if I could borrow a fishing net with a long handle to scoop the stuff out. The professor I spoke with was somewhat skeptical of my endeavors, but allowed me to borrow the net, as long as I returned it by the end of the day. I took the net, bought some gloves and ten large black plastic bags, returned to the scene and got to work.

I filled one, two, three, four black plastic bags, receiving stares and furtive quizzical looks all the while. When I was up to my eighth bag, a man, the one person who had briefly struck up conversation during my junk-fishing bonanza, had purchased more bags and brought them to me.  I think I filled about twelve bags in all, and I actually began to find interesting the discarded crap in the nets.

I talked a construction crew into allowing me to sling the bags into  their skips, returned the nets, and felt a little better that, once the rain came, everything that would have been washed out to sea was diverted into landfill. (Of course, I then discovered that Galway, the fastest growing city in western Europe, only had a primary treatment plant. The swans were bathing in raw sewage! Oi.)

So where am I going with this? Today, as with many days this summer, quite a few this autumn and several already this winter, Cully’s air has been fouled with the stench of asphalt, mainly due to  atmospheric inversion.  On the days when the ground temperature is warmer than the air, it is less noticeable, so there is a better chance that the VOCs and other airborne toxics remain unnoticeable. There is no problem, right? The pollution heads skyward, dissipates, and is essentially non-existent – or at least harder to pinpoint.

The same argument prevails, that, given the right conditions, pollution goes away. It’s not in our back yard, or in anyone’s back yard. It’s for the Earth to absorb or disperse. Portland is an unwilling recipient of toxics from China, Boardman, and other distant locations, all due to atmospheric conditions. All pollution ends up somewhere. In a twisted way, our toxic inversions are positive events as they alert people that there are truly problems with our air quality legislation – they can call, complain, get active in issues that affect everyone. People need clean air to survive. We can’t let industry or government continue to hide behind the guise of dissipation or loss of jobs. Call DEQ when you smell anything! It’s up to us.

DEQ Proactively Requests Air Quality Emissions & Production Data from 1,298 Facilities in Oregon

Hopefully everyone complies! Here is the press release from Oregon DEQ, this morning:

Data from nearly 1,300 industrial facilities will strengthen air permitting program and inform Cleaner Air Oregon rulemaking
Portland, OR—The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has sent letters to industrial facilities with DEQ air permits and registrations requesting reports on their usage of substances from a list of 633 chemicals.

http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/cao/docs/EI_Letter.p… The requested data will be used by state regulators and health experts to develop an effective health risk-based permitting program as part of Governor Brown’s Cleaner Air Oregon initiative.

Using this information, the state will develop a more comprehensive inventory of air toxics emissions. The inventory will allow DEQ and the Oregon Health Authority to develop and implement a regulatory program that appropriately prioritizes efforts to control emissions to reduce potential risks to human health. The data will also provide the foundation for recommendations to the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission for which facilities should be subject to reporting, permitting, or other regulatory requirements.

The list of chemicals that must be reported is based on a combination of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Hazardous Air Pollutants, as well lists from the Washington Department of Ecology and California Air Resources Board. With this information, DEQ will be able to determine the types of facilities using these chemicals, as well as the quantities typically used on-site. The chemicals reported will be compared with current scientific data to identify which ones pose health concerns and need to be brought into the new regulations.

The letters have been sent to 1,298 facilities in Oregon. DEQ has created a website to assist facilities in gathering and reporting new data, http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/cao.htm DEQ will propose draft air toxics rules to the Environmental Quality Commission in December of 2017 following an extensive public engagement process, including an analysis of the emissions data as well as the fiscal and economic effects of any proposed rules.

For more information visit:
DEQ’s Air Toxics Emissions Inventory webpage, http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/cao.htm

To receive information about this program as it develops, you may sign up for text or email updates at the Cleaner Air Oregon website, http://cleanerair.oregon.gov/

Contact: Jennifer Flynt, Public Affairs Specialist, 503-730-5924, flynt.jennifer@deq.state.or.us

 

Cully’s Spanish-speaking residents call for more information on local air toxics

Residents of the northeast Portland neighborhood of Cully gathered this week to share concerns about air pollution from local factories and passing diesel trucks.

“If we know what’s happening here we can share that information with other people who don’t know,” said Araceli Becerril. “What can we do? What should we know about how to protect ourselves.”

Becerril volunteers with a local nonprofit that advocated for clean water. So when she got an email announcing Wednesday night’s meeting about air toxins, she came to find out what what going on. She hadn’t heard about problems with the air.

And she wasn’t the only one. Two women hired for the evening to watch children while neighbors learned about air toxins, joined in.

“It’s the first time I’m hearing about this, and I’m worried,” Lleny Ku said.

Organizer Alma Velázquez, a volunteer with Cully Air Action Team (link is external), said she grew up in Guadalajara and thought you could tell if the air was polluted by the color of the air.  So when she learned about possibly unsafe levels of arsenic and cadmium near glass companies in other parts of Portland, she began organizing neighbors for a formal study on the air in their neighborhood.

As neighboring states tighten regulations on dirty emissions, Oregon has become a dumping ground for older model semi trucks. That’s a big problem for people in Cully, where a major transport route borders the neighborhood to the North. Glass and asphalt companies operate nearby, along streams and ponds marked with signs warning of polluted water.

Mirexa Acosta said she hadn’t known about the companies, but she’s not surprised. Sometimes when she walks outside, the air smells like chemicals that remind her of pesticide spray.

“We’re not informed about anything,” she said. She’d like to know how to complain.

Nina DeConcini, a regional administrator at the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (link is external), told Acosta and the other attendees that the agency wanted to hear from them, and would respond to concerns with inspections and studies. The state, for example, recently installed two air monitors in the neighborhood.  They expect results will be ready this fall.

airquality_20160921-10
Lleny Ku (left) and Mirexa Acosta were startled to find out about potential problems with the air quality in Cully.

DeConcini encouraged people to call the agency’s tipline with any concerns: 888-997-7888

Matt Hoffman, a program specialist with Multnomah County Environmental Health, said the county has little control over factory emissions, but it’s looking at how to limit traffic from old diesel trucks that use county roads.

“One of the most powerful tools we have is the personal stories from people on the ground,” he said. “You talk about your experiences, your neighborhood, and your family. That can be powerful.”

https://multco.us/global/news/spanish-speaking-residents-call-more-information-air-toxins-cully-neighborhood

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

What is the Cully Air Action Team?

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.

Complain to the Oregon DEQ about an Airborne Stink Event

Questions? Contact us at info@cullycleanair.org