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

7/2/2016 Cully Air Action Team Meeting Notes

The Cully Air Action Team met and discussed the items below. If you are interested in joining us for our next meeting please contact us here.
Discussion
1. Regular meetings: We want to meet regularly and have agreed that for now, it works to meet once per month on a Sunday morning for anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.
The next meeting will be Sunday, August 7th, at 10 a.m. Those who can are encouraged to bring a brunchy treat.
2. Collaborations with other groups:
Living Cully: We are currently collaborating with a variety of community groups and organizations, representing the interests of neighbors in Cully around air quality. We are aligned with Living Cully in our efforts to get monitoring in the neighborhood from DEQ. That appears to be moving in the right direction. We will be engaging in weekly check-ins (conference calls) on the monitoring topic to get updates, get our questions answered, etc. These weekly calls are an opportunity to bring up other issues that interest us and that we think DEQ can address, such as the ongoing stink problems with Porter Yett and Tina’s response so far. We want to bring this up in the next conversation as it appears that Nina is more responsive, so maybe she can help us. The next phone call with DEQ is scheduled for Thursday, July 14 at 12 noon and every Thursday thereafter t 12 noon. Gregory, Xan and Alma are invited. Let one of us know if you want to add a question/comment to our list.
Additionally, we’re looking at the things that Xan mentioned in her previous update about that last meeting with DEQ.
We want to continue to collaborate with Living Cully as we feel this has been a very positive experience so far and Tony’s goals for environmental justice is aligned with ours, and the relationship is good.
Portland Clean Air: We have worked with Greg B and Seth W from PCA in the past around permits, mapping, and creating a fact sheet for Cully (this last one is ongoing). PCA conducted some canvassing in our neighborhood and as a result they have an additional 50 or so members who live in Cully. They want to pass the group to us so we plan on a joint communication to invite those folks to join CAAT. Alma is working on that with Greg B from PCA. Thinking that we can plan for a meeting perhaps in late August or September for people interested in joining us. I’ll look into a venue, like a library community room. PCA is also put a spectrometer to measure VOCs in a safe place and it could be moved to Evans since she lives closer to Porter Yett. We’re hoping it could capture the type of data that the DEQ monitors won’t because those monitors only measure metals.
Big Tent Coalition: Xan is in touch with Mary Peveto  of Neighbors for Clean Air and others as part of a coalition looking for statewide solutions to diesel.
Spokes Council: We’re also involved in discussions about a spokes council with PCA, EPAC and other groups. Gregory is our point person for that.
3. Updating the website: Our site needs content! Can you please check it out, check out what’s been posted before and let us know what kind of information would make it more relevant for folks wanting to join our group. Gregory is in the process of updating our name to CAAT. Meanwhile, what else should we include? 

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/

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

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