Tag Archives: DEQ

Final Cleaner Air Oregon comments from CAAT

Cully Air Action Team (CAAT) public comment points for Environmental Quality Control Commission on the topic of Cleaner Air Oregon.

Please consider the below comments as a short list of items that need to be addressed in order to fulfill the Governor’s mandate for health-based regulatory overhaul of air toxics.

First, CAAT would like to recognize the positive aspects of these CAO declarations. The ‘Community Engagement’ (OAR 340-245-0120) provisions seem robust and well-designed, although EPAC’s (Eastside Portland Air Coalition) suggestion of having an ‘ombudsperson’ to oversee effective implementation of outreach and support for all community members would be a welcome insurance of oversight.

The ‘Air Monitoring Requirements’ (OAR 340-245-0240) seem to have been strengthened, and yet the potential loophole for unverifiable self-monitoring results still looms as a real vulnerability. Given past confusion on industrial polluters releases, toxic inventories, and effective containment of hazardous waste, it may very well be major flaw, as well. CAAT encourages the State Agencies to conduct surprise visits to industrial polluters, especially those that have received or are receiving numerous community complaints on nuisance odors, or that are in close proximity to vulnerable populations and K-12 schools, or that use carcinogenic and mutagenic toxins.

CAAT is still very concerned regarding potential misuse and overuse of exemptions to the ‘Risk Reduction Plan Requirements’ (OAR 340-245-0160.) Again, CAAT requests that the state impose a limit on the number of exemptions to be issued under 340-245-0160, whether it is an arbitrary number of 5 total exemptions for the entire state during each five year cycle starting in 2019, or an upper maximum limit of total permits. CAAT feels the agency is perpetuating a loophole within the CAO rules, and reminds the State that exemptions falling under 340-245-0160 should not be handed out merely if a toxic emitter or industrial polluter requests one and follows the DEQ exemption criteria, as has been the case with the past lax permitting structure. 

Another opportunity for community engagement may also exist with implementation of 340-245-0160, if the agency empowers a recognized community advocacy group to become a part of the decision-making process, for or against the issuance of any exemption permit.

CAAT also supports EPAC’s submitted comments and would like to emphasize the importance of Point Six and Point Ten in their “EPAC Public Comment Points for EQC CAO”:

6. Get rid of potential loopholes in the draft rules by eliminating permissive language. Rules should be rules and not loopholes. When using the word “may”, DEQ should provide a limitation on the discretion.

10. Air monitoring should be mandatory and done on a surprise basis. Requiring air monitoring is the first step in restoring public trust. If we don’t know what we are breathing and how much, how is any rule going to be effective? It will also be a good foil against emissions inventories and a way to see if results line up in terms of what industry says they are emitting and what they are emitting.

Lastly, CAAT reminds DEQ and the State that the health of the local community affected by industrial polluters is the primary purpose of this CAO regulatory framework, and whether the cost for treatment of ailments, or providing wrap-around care for sickened children and other individuals, is borne by the State or the polluter is what is of consequence here. CAAT advocates that the polluter should bear the burden, for if they are knowingly pushing toxins into community airsheds, they must be held accountable by the State. These toxins have created negative health effects, such as asthma in children, and are indicated as causative for cancers, autism, neurological disorders, and many other illnesses and diseases which limit life, cause immense suffering, and cost the State a huge amount in associated heath-care costs. The negative effects of airborne pollutant sedimentation and bioaccumulation in Oregon wildlife, local flora and fauna, and home gardens and farms are also of great concern to CAAT. 

The remedy for these injuries would be best accomplished by:

—   eliminating the loopholes mentioned above regarding 340-245-0160;

—   conducting unannounced, surprise, monitoring visits to industrial polluters;

—   and, requiring all industrial polluters to use TBACT filtering and capture devices for pollutants. 

Protecting the health and well-being of the diverse environs and communities in Oregon is an obligation that local industrial polluters must recognize, and commit engineering capacity and resources to, if they want to share the local airshed with the people of Oregon. 

The Cully Air Action Team thanks the EQC for taking the lead in protecting our health and the health of the Oregon wilds. 

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