After the catastrophic fire on March 12, 2018, NW Metals came into greater scrutiny as an ongoing danger to the community. The fire was due to the company’s negligence, flouting common sense regulations, and caused extensive damage to nearby homes, animals, and the community. The semi-legal chop shop is located next to the giant Comcast building on Killingsworth, just east of NE 75th Ave.
After pressure from CAAT and other local organizations, state legislators passed SB 792 this past June 2019, to regulate auto dismantlers and ‘chop shops’ such as NW Metals. Under the previous regulatory structure, NW Metals was pretty much left alone, beneath the sleepy eyes of the DMV. As far as I understand it, SB 792 requires DMV to now include DEQ in watching over these facilities. CAAT advocated strongly for increased liability reserves to be mandated for the company to pay for future clean-up costs, but the Bill was seriously weakened by state Republicans who don’t seem to care about the people of Portland, our health, or environmental pollution.
Nonetheless, SB 792 is what we have. I have met the DMV inspector twice in the last few months at DMV SB 792 Rulesmaking and Public Hearings. As the only non-industry representative at both of those hearings, I advocated for DMV to take a more active approach in investigating, penalizing and eventually shutting down NW Metals, as well as forcing polluters to set-up a contingent liability fund to pay for health problems and environmental damage to the community, and eventual clean-up of their facilities, now which is the sole burden of the community and taxpayers. In conversation with the DMV Lead Investigator, he seemed to be looking forward to taking on the investigatory challenges with NW Metals. I hope to have more information from him about any of his findings soon, perhaps by early January 2020. The industry reps at the meeting wanted to ease restrictions and financial obligations imposed by SB 792, but all agreed with me that NW Metals was a ‘bad actor’ that needed some kind of penalty, although they themselves only ran legit businesses that loved nature and their community.
DEQ has also taken a more aggressive stance to NW Metals, perhaps due to SB 792, or in the least from pressure from CAAT and other local groups. DMV issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against NW Metals this last week. This is an important development to increase pressure on NW Metals, and DEQ is steeping up.
The civil complaint filed by DEQ in District Court asks the court to require NW Metals to correct onsite violations, including:
• Immediately cease shredding waste tires
• Store all tires in accordance with standards within 10 days
• Cease operations of prohibited underground injection systems within 10 days
• Submit an air quality permit application for all shredders within 10 days
• Implement the work plan and submit documentation to DEQ demonstrating completion within 20 days
• Submit a plan to DEQ for approval demonstrating how storm water runoff will be contained within 10 days and implement that plan within 30 days of approval
• Reimburse DEQ for its “remedial action costs” incurred to respond the disaster at the NW Metals site
More details are here: [https://www.oregon.gov/deq/Programs/Pages/nescrap.aspx]This represents an important step by DEQ to force NW Metals to clean up their act, or shut it all down.
What you can do: Anytime you see an elected official, or DEQ, or DMV official, ask and then tell them: “What are you doing to shut down the illegal chop-shop NW Metals? They are continually and flagrantly breaking the law and I don’t want to pay for the clean-up of their facility once they declare bankruptcy.”
Keep the pressure on. Tell every elected official to shut down NW Metals.