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

 

CAAT and Oregon Environmental Council Bring Citizen Science Diesel Study to Cully

On Tuesday, 6 December, Oregon Environmental Council and CAAT will present a diesel-focused outreach in both Spanish and English to Cully residents.

OEC will discuss the effects of diesel on human health and ways in which we are exposed to its particulates, then elaborate on the neighborhood diesel study in which we will participate. Building upon the pilot program in the Lents neighborhood, we will use black carbon monitoring and technology to upload a map which documents our exposure.

This will be a fun and informative meeting! Childcare, food and translation are available. It’s not imperative, but please contact xanham@cullycleanair.org to RSVP for childcare, or for more questions.

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CAAT OEC espanol
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CAAT OEC flier ingles

Is Porter Yett polluting Cully’s air?

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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.

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.

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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

Cleaner Air Oregon Public Forum & Rally, 5 Oct

xan1CAAT wants you to come to the Cleaner Air Oregon Public Forum on Wednesday, October 5th!

There will be a rally at 5:00pm, before the Forum officially starts at 6:00pm. The forum is schedule to end at 8:30pm.

Cleaner Air Oregon wants to hear from people across the state to pass on their views and thoughts to the CAO Regulatory Advisory Committee. This is a VERY IMPORTANT opportunity for Cully to share what is on their mind regarding the upcoming revamping of our air quality legislation.

The forum with include presentations by DEQ and OHA staff, and there will be opportunity to give this input after these presentations.

There will be childcare and interpretation if DEQ has advance notice that both are needed. Respond if you have these needs to CleanerAir.Oregon.gov/forum-rsvp

If you can’t attend, there will be an online version of the forums available via CleanerAir.Oregon.gov from Sep 13 – Oct 5.

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.

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

Charting, monitoring and bettering air quality issues in the Cully neighborhood of NE Portland.