The past few months have been disturbing and traumatizing, for our nation, our community, and our own emotive and communal selves. However, the work towards cleaner air does continue, albeit at an incremental pace totally out of sync with the rapidity of the massive and necessary changes happening within our communities.
Here are a few updates:NW Metals: As of September 4, 2020, DMV has suspended the dealer certificate previously held by NW Metals. Apparently there is another dealer certificate located at the same property, 7600 NE Killingsworth St., #201 that is still in effect. It amazes me what people do to perpetuate their powers to pollute, powers that others do not have or would not use, but powers that are a real loophole within the corrupted permitting process for the State of Oregon. NW Metals is also in the process moving their facility to 9537 N. Columbia Blvd, out by the bird sanctuary and wetlands of Bybee Lake. While this is great for Cully, I fear that NW Metals will just shift their toxin releases into those important wetlands and the adjacent Columbia Slough. NW Metals is still under a prohibition order regarding their metal shredder, so they should not be doing any activity at their Cully site that creates noise or smoke. Please report them to DEQ if you notice them breaking the law.
Owens-Brockway Glass Plant: This major Cully polluter, on the NW corner of the intersection of 205 and Killingsworth, still continues to stonewall the community’s efforts to protect the health of the local airstream and ecosystem. After firing over 100 workers last year, they supposedly moved their chromium releasing green glass processing to their Kalama, WA. facility where they may have filtering and capture technology. They still are manipulating their self-reporting to misrepresent the pollutant release data provided to DEQ, adding cullet to obtain a less dense opacity stream for self-reporting of toxin release. CAAT and other local organizations are pressuring DEQ to follow through on this flagrant abuse of the self-reporting process. Ultimately, we want Owens-Brockway to install the best technical filtering technology available to protect local residents and wildlife from toxin release. Cleaner Air Oregon (CAO) promises to increase the safety factors for these heavy polluters still remain unfulfilled. I have noticed SO2 smells lately (matchsticks), usually on Sunday mornings, and while Owens-Brockway has stated they do not release SO2 anymore, a lung irritant and greenhouse gas, it is hard to believe that anything they say is actually true. CAAT will continue to pressure DEQ to insist that Owens-Brockway install and use the best technology available to filter out lead, metals, HAPS, and other toxins from their emission stream.Lastly, the Cully Association of Neighbors will have their first 2020-2021 meeting via Zoom Tuesday night, September 8 from 7-9pm. Commisioner JoAnn Hardesty will be giving us an update on “The Future of Policing and Public Safety in Portland”. Join us if you like, at this meeting link:
The term ‘Vile Soup’ came to me as I was skimming through the tables at the end of the 2018 Oregon Air Toxics Monitoring Summary, released this last February 2020. I figured DEQ would interpret the numbers as stand-alone measurements that were all below a dangerous threshold. With DEQ announcements of the last few weeks, that does seem to be the case. As an environmental activist, and a breather, living near the Owens-Brockway facility and other industrial polluters, however, my own concerns were not assuaged by these numbers. And beyond the numbers, what is that prevalent tang in the air? The constant presence of soot and recurrent solvent odors are easy to notice. Are my senses lying to me? Or, maybe it is just another unusual airflow pattern from PDX or the diesel trucks along Columbia Highway and I-205?
In the DEQ report, there are quite a few compounds that read at a maximum level with a higher concentration at the Cully monitoring site (Helensview Alternative High School) than they do from other sites. When volatile chemical compounds meet, they often interact with each other, creating new compounds that might create more, different, negative health effects for the human body than the original toxin. The large amount of measurable compounds in the Cully airshed creates a ‘vile soup’ of different compounds. We breathe this soup. Every day. But the additives are not just arrowroot put into a broth to thicken it, or olive oil to give it a luxurious swirl. Instead, the amount of different chemicals at levels higher than other sites create a vile recipe that we all smell, taste, and inhale.
When chemicals combine and modify each other, the health effects of this mixture of volatile chemical compounds is called ‘synergistic effects’. The state has done no research on synergistic effects even though they know it is detrimental to health and is happening in our community.
In term of metals (which may or may not be synergists even as they are of individual concern): the reading for lead shows a higher rate than at the NATT’s trend sites (NATT sites are the national trend/average monitors set in specific locations around the city and the nation for baseline comparison.) The problem with lead is that any amount is dangerous, especially to children living near the polluting facilities or attending the three schools within a mile of Owens-Brockway. Lead also bioaccumulates. Once it enters our body, lead will embed its molecules into our blood, bones and teeth, and tissue organs, and that creates real problems like cancers and neurological disabilities.
Chromium-6, a very dangerous carcinogenic metal, shows a maximum reading of .0842 (higher than any other monitor), and yet has a high 96%ND (which is confusing because %ND rates need to be below 80% for the reading to be valid.) The arsenic levels are also very high, and may be the result of Owens-Brockway adding raw materials, like sand, into the glass-cuttle mixture to achieve uniformity. We already have high rates of arsenic in our local environment, so adding more to our airstream and yards increases the likelihood of damage to the body.
While this information is a bit frightening, CAAT means to illustrate the types of dangerous compounds that are routinely sampled in the local airshed. There are so many pollutants around us, some are natural and have always been here, although they may have been hidden underground or in rocks. The industrial pursuit for efficient production and increased profit has mined these metals and brought them closer to us. Metals, mined and then introduced into industrial processes, do not go away, not through incineration nor chemical degradation. They can settle on the ground and sink into watersheds, and they also can be taken up in plant leaves, fruits, and vegetables and bio-accumulate, fixing themselves in our bodies.
As industrial production grew, thousands of under-regulated and poorly understood synthetic chemicals were developed and entered into the mix. Among them are VOC’s, which will disperse with the airstream and most will eventually breakdown. These are the ‘chemical’ scents we catch while hanging out in our backyards tending the garden or enjoying the open-space yards Cully is so well know for. Many VOC’s are extremely toxic in large airborne toxic events and some are recognized as cancer causing carcinogens. Some also are bio-accumulative. While longterm human exposure from many VOC’s has not been researched enough, CAAT surmises that in the least VOC’s are respiratory irritants, causing headaches, nosebleeds, and dizziness, and probably have effects on our emotional health and immune systems as well.
PAH’s last a lot longer in the environment than VOC’s and are often associated with diesel, and tobacco smoke. As PubChem states:
”Our environment is contaminated with a diverse array of chemicals; one of which is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). While some PAHs are potent by nature, others undergo interactions such as additivity, synergism, antagonism or potentiation to manifest their toxicity.” https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/9154#section=Interactions
These metals are of concern to the people in the Cully and other local neighborhoods. In the DEQ Monitoring Summary, they register at higher levels in Cully compared to other testing sites:
There is a lot of data in these tables, and the DEQ did well to set up these monitors. What we, as residents, decide to do with the information and data is up to us. DEQ will continue to monitor, and to permit polluters, as is required under the law, but only the local politicians can make the changes necessary to protect you from industrial polluters and the vile ‘soup’ that they create.
Call them up and tell them about your concerns:
Governor Kate Brown: 503-378-4582;
Speaker Tina Kotek Capitol Phone: 503-986-1200, District Phone: 503-286-0558:
Senator Michael Dembrow Capitol Phone: 503-986-1723;
Representative Barbara Smith Warner Capitol Phone: 503-986-1445;
NW Metals: In November 2019, DEQ issued a Temporary Restraining Order against NW Metals. This was in response to the catastrophic fire on March 12, 2018 that caused severe damage to nearby homes, properties, and pets. The TRO requires them to do a number of things to make their operations safer, including stopping the shredding of all tires and reimbursing the State for costs associated with DEQ investigations. Since the passage of SB 792 last spring, DMV is also in the picture and has levied a fine of $3750 against NW Metals and is seeking to suspend their permit to operate for the next three years. NW Metals is appealing these rulings and will continue to operate during the appeal process. CAAT will continue to pressure DEQ and DMV to aggressively investigate and shut NW Metals down.
Owens-Brockway: After shuttering one of their furnaces and laying off over 100 workers, Owens is still refusing to install any filtering devices on their pollution stacks. The DEQ has renewed their Title V permit but is subjecting the polluter to greater scrutiny. CAAT is working with Portland Clean Air, Earthjustice, Verde and Oregon Environmental Council- OEC to petition the EPA to revisit the Title V permitting process in the hopes of forcing the State to address the health concerns of the community.
HydroExtrusion Portland (formerly SAPA): Since they purchased a site off of Cornfoot Road by the Columbia Slough with prior pollution, state law mandates that Hydro has to assume liability for any prior pollution, including cleanup costs. DEQ wants to initiate a Consent Judgement Settlement with HydroPortland for a fine of $487,050. The settlement means that the Columbia Slough pollution mitigation is moving forward and cleanup is occurring. CAAT is supportive of this and will continue to monitor HydroExtrusion for pollution releases.
There are a few new developments for cleaning up the Cully airshed. First of all, I, and a member of the Cully Neighborhood Association, and one from Portland Clean Air, met with Mike Smaha, the ‘US Government Affairs’ lobbyist for Owens-Illinois (O-I), the company that owns the Owens-Brockway facility. At that meeting, I encouraged O-I to install electrostatic filters to remove Lead, Mercury, Chromium, and other dangerous contaminants from the Owens-Brockway pollution stream. We had a frank conversation, and even though O-I has installed those same filters at other O-I facilities, there were no commitments that O-I would clean up their act here in Cully.
DEQ is now reviewing public comments regarding the Owens-Brockway pollution permit and has stated that they, DEQ, “will incorporate any necessary changes into the permit.” Thanks to all who made comments regarding the permitting of Owens-Brockway.
DEQ also issued Owens-Brockway a $12,900 civil penalty in mid-December for hazardous waste violations. They paid the penalty and have taken steps to correct those violations.
Lastly, DEQ fined NW Metals $77,419 for violations. Last May, they had a terrible tire fire which led to forced evacuations of Cully residents, and caused injuries and property damage to surrounding homes. DEQ also amended the notice for the property owner, FHA Holdings, increasing the penalty to $43,954. NW Metals/FHA Holdings appealed the initial violations, and the case was sent to Oregon’s Office of Administrative Hearings for a contested case hearing. I have asked DEQ repeatedly how local residents can address this appeal, for I think many of you may have something to say. The process is rather long and byzantine but is described here, at the Oregon Secretary of State’s site, under OAR 137-003-0005, if you are interested.
Also, I have changed the name of this grassroots clean air advocacy group to Cully Air Action Telemetry.
Comments on the Draft Title V Operating Permit for Owens-Brockway Glass Container Inc., Permit No. 26-1876-TV-01
In these final comments from the Cully Air Action Team (CAAT), on the permitting of the Owens-Brockway facility site, CAAT re-emphasizes the need for independently verifiable testing and monitoring of pollutant releases for the plant, rather than the current industry provided data, or, projections based on company-reported data. CAAT also insists that DEQ uses its authority to protect the local community’s health by insisting the Owens-Brockway facility install TBACT filters on all dangerous airborne release vectors within the Owens-Brockway site.
CAAT would also like to remind the Oregon DEQ and OHA that if the state does not assume authoritative control over regulation and subsequent negative health effects of ambient metals, HAPs, and other toxic releases from Owens-Brockway, that the state becomes an active participant in harming the community, the population, and local wildlife.
After eight days of air quality registering over 50 and at times close to 100 in terms of the PM 2.5 Air Quality Index, according to the DEQ Helensview monitor (October 16-24, 2018), it is clear that Cully residents being subjected to a toxic stew of nuisance odors, PM, and unfiltered HAPs. These airborne pollutants may includied Chromium, Lead, benzene, and other carcinogens and developmentally dangerous pollutants released from the Owens-Brockway site. During a recent stoppage of the Owens-Brockway facility due to disrupted natural gas supplies, the air was noticeably cleaner and the Helensview monitor indicated that (October 10-15, 2018). The nuisance odors, and the less noticeable toxicity leading to negative health and developmental effects on vulnerable populations, including newborns and elderly, are occurring again, now that the Owens-Brockway facility is up and running. There are three schools, and many gardens and fruits trees, and many families and low-income neighborhoods within a mile of this polluter, Owens-Brockway.
The Owens-Brockway site lacks TBACT filters and DEQ needs to mandate TBACT filters on all furnaces and stacks as a condition for reissuing this permit. The Hazard Index being experienced by local communities from Owens-Brockway pollutant releases must be recognized and protections enforced by state agencies, including Oregon DEQ. Waiting for severe health effects, including death, cancer, and CNS-related childhood ailments from the chronic exposures and synergistic effects of numerous pollutants, would be a terrible crime inflicted by the state on the vulnerable communities living and attending public schools near the Owens-Brockway site. It would also be a continuation of the previous disregard the state of Oregon has inflicted on poor communities and vulnerable and racially-mixed populations.
Again, the severe and negative health effects from the pollutants released from Owens-Brockway unfiltered furnace stacks and hazardous waste management are occurring now. These effects are falling onto and are being breathed in by pregnant women, children, the elderly, community residents, and local fish and wildlife populations subjected to the chemical and ambient metal pollution from the Owens-Brockway facility.
Given the opportunity for exercising authority to protect the health of the people of the state of Oregon, DEQ must insist that issuance of a new permit for Owens-Brockway includes the installation of TBACT filters to filter out the dangerous poisons this company releases on a daily basis into the community, and independent and verifiable monitoring of pollutants from the facility.
Owens-Brockway at 9710 NE Glass Plant Road, Portland, OR 97220 releases at least 300 pounds of Lead into the air every year, and released 213 pounds of Chromium in 2016. The company has been fined for sloppy hazardous wast management practices. The facility operates two burners and only one has a fabric filtering device. On Monday, September 10 2018, a fire at the facility resulted in a loss of power. During the power outage, process water flooded the basement and mixed with some oil. Some of the oily water discharged to the stormwater system and made it to Johnson Lake.
Owens-Brockway Glass Container, Inc., a subsidiary of Owens-Illinois (O-I), is located at 9710 NE Glass Plant Road, Portland, OR 97220. Owens-Brockway is a Title V (Title 5) polluter. As such, they are at the highest regulatory level, primarily because of their release of Criteria Pollutants such as Lead and Sulfur Dioxide.
1: Owens-Brockway released 300 pounds of ambient (airborne) Lead in 2016.
Lead can accumulate in the body, particularly in bones. Lead can cause brain damage, reproductive problems, high-blood pressure, kidney disease, and nervous disorders.
3: There are three Public Schools within one mile of the Owens-Brockway facility:
◆ Prescott St. Elementary in Parkrose School District
◆ Helensview Alternative High School, Multnomah Education Service District
◆ Sacajawea Headstart, Portland Public Schools
The children, teachers, education workers, and para-educators who attend and work at these schools deserve better protection from industrial pollutants.
4: Owens-Brockway currently only uses one fabric filter on one of their burners. They should be using the Best Available Control Technology (BACT) to filter out dangerous pollutants, such as a wet-bag filtering unit, on all of their polluting burners.
5: Owens-Brockway has been fined by DEQ this year for shoddy hazardous waste control. Where did that hazardous waste end up? Did it go into Johnson Lake, just north of Owens-Brockway, and then into the Columbia Slough?
6: Cleaner Air Oregon (CAO) is still being worked on. It is wrong to permit a Title V industrial polluter before CAO is on the books.
7: Other issues:
➢Gardening/Farming and metal contamination;
➢ Diminished Property Values
➢ Environmental Justice (Cully has many different and diverse populations, and income levels. Polluting facilities are often located in these types of neighborhoods, by design, because of prior or current racist practices);
➢ The new Thomas Cully Park, that the city and county spent a whole bunch of money cleaning up, isvery close to the pollution source, Owens-Brockway.
A 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.