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 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.
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 reading1.57 µg/m3
9/27/2016 reading2.58 µg/m3
9/28/2016 reading7.32 µg/m3
9/29/2016 reading1.33 µg/m3
Clearly, something was happening with nickel distribution into the Cully airshed during this time.
“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.
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.
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.
Charting, monitoring and bettering air quality issues in the Cully neighborhood of NE Portland.