Category Archives: Pollutants

Descriptions of toxins and pollutants.

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

Monday Air Quality Update

The Cully Air Action Team has been extremely busy and involved in air quality issues over the past few months. This is the first weekly posting spree, split into several topic-based posts, serving to bring readers up to speed on CAAT’s activism and issues that exist with air quality in Cully, in addition to listing important upcoming meetings and events that people should attend. We all breathe air from the same airshed!

July saw the establishment of a weekly, 30-minute call-in conversation with representatives of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Multnomah County, to discuss the many air quality issues that affect us, in Cully: Heavy industry with little or no air filtration; several high-use transportation corridors; the Port of Portland; Forest Service moss results;  Air Quality informational meetings; specific polluters I will mention, below.

The United States Forest Service (USFS) moss samples indicated that Cully is the most polluted neighborhood in all of Portland. From this data, DEQ decided to establish two air monitors in Cully. One air monitor was located on 1 Sep at Parkrose Deliverance Tabernacle on NE 57th & Portland Highway, while the second is at a BES Pumping Station on about NE 62nd, north of Columbia Highway, placed 19 Sep. Both air monitors are functioning, with data collected daily by DEQ. To complement these monitors, a meteorological data station has been mounted atop Living Cully Plaza. On 1 Oct, DEQ will begin to analyze 30 days’ worth of data from the first monitor, in addition to corresponding meteorological data, and we are told to expect results sometime mid-Oct. These results will indicate what has been in the air for 30 days, but unfortunately will not pinpoint the source of the heavy metals. If the results show that there is a level of heavy metals that exceeds state health benchmarks, OHA will take some form of action to alert public.

As to why DEQ is spending so much time, effort and outreach on Cully:

  1. Cully is a historically underserved community, the largest and most diverse neighborhood in Portland. There are issues of environmental justice and unheard voices that need to be immediately addressed.
  2. From the Moss Samples we can see that Cully is off the chartsregarding aluminum, chromium and cobalt (highest in Portland for all three), iron; very high in arsenic, lead, copper, zinc, and molybdenum. http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/pnw_gtr938.pdf

This is a fantastic document, listing all the moss sample sites throughout the city, and the corresponding metals found in each sample. Although I knew Cully was bad, I hadn’t considered all the metals measured in the samples, as Bullseye and Uruboros were gathering attention for Chromium, Cobalt, and Arsenic. Thus, when I looked at the sample from two blocks away, I was astounded to see the aluminium measured the worst in the city. Everyone should look at their closest moss samples to see what was collected. It is difficult to envision air pollution amidst blue skies and gorgeous days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

The Porter W. Yett asphalt stench

Asphalt heaters and dryers at Porter Yett
Asphalt heaters and dryers at Porter Yett

While community members have made numerous complaints to the Oregon DEQ regarding foul and chemical odors in Cully, we have seen little real progress in addressing the mediation of such odors. Neither have we seen an accounting of the origin or monitoring of such odors. We, as residents of the Cully neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, are concerned that unregulated chemical releases may affect our long term health in a negative way as well as our short-term comfort. This is of special concern given our high population of children and elderly.

Perhaps the DEQ is unaware of the amount and nature of the chemicals being used. If so, please send them a message and document below on asphalt pollutants, (from http://www.ncair.org/toxics/asphalt/) Granted, this document only addresses toxic air pollutants related to the Porter Yett facility (5949 NE Cully Blvd.) but we hope it may spur on the DEQ to take a more responsive and transparent approach to protect the health of Cully residents. Other industries may be using similar TAPs, toluene and other PAHs yet there seems to be little information about how these TAPs are being addressed.

Cully, as a community within Oregon, is home to a very diverse and economically vulnerable population. We strongly believe that our complaints and concerns have systematically been ignored. Because of this, many of our residents may have become resigned to the fact that the air around us may be laced with known carcinogens. We are compelled to demand that the Oregon DEQ restrict Porter Yett and other TAP industries from polluting our air and endangering our health. We would further request increased monitoring and a listing of all known TAPs being used in industrial processes within 1000 feet of the Cully neighborhood boundaries. It is our deepest hope that DEQ will now focus its attention to protecting the people it is meant to serve. Please respond to this letter, and our health concerns, within 30 days.

from http://www.ncair.org/toxics/asphalt/
from http://www.ncair.org/toxics/asphalt/