Recent action on Portland air quality— and how you can get involved

Nearly two and a half years after news reports about toxic air emissions shocked Portland, action from state health officials is finally coming to fruition. 

The State of Oregon released a report about emissions from Precision Castparts Corporation at the end of October, and passed rules to better protect neighbors who live close to industrial polluters on Nov 15. 

The Precision Castparts Corp. plant is located at 4600 SE Harney Drive. 

The Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association is hosting the Oregon Health Authority at their monthly board meeting held at the Brentwood-Darlington Community Center (7211 SE 62nd Ave) on Thursday, Dec 6th from 7 pm – 9 pm. OHA officials will be making a presentation on the PCC public health assessment.

Pamela Hodge, a BDNA board member who’s been following this issue, said that most people who attended a meeting on the report at the end of November were skeptical of the state’s methodology and findings. The State of Oregon’s found that during the time of the study, emissions from the plant were unlikely to have harmed human health.

Even though the plant has been in operation for 30 years, the state’s conclusions were taken from only seven months of testing in 2016 and 2017, she wrote in an email. The testing began one month prior to the installation of a pollution control device called a bag house, and seven months after, she wrote. 

Hodge wrote that the state disregarded older information about toxic releases from the facility. “Earlier data from Toxic Release Inventory dating back to 1987 was considered ‘unreliable’ even though OHA stated that TRI data suggests health risks could have been 10 – 100 times higher during that period… ” 

There was no data available from the first 30 years of the plant’s operation (1957 – 1987), she added. 

Read more about the report in this story from Pamplin Media. In the piece, neighborhood health advocates criticized the state for not considering long-term exposure and not consulting reported cancer cases nearby. 

The facility makes metal parts for the aerospace, defense and medical industries, and has 162 plants worldwide. Precision Castparts was sued by neighbors for the plant’s alleged impact on their health in 2016. 

Neighbors can give public comments about the report until Jan. 15th. Those comment can be sent via email to ehap.info@state.or.us. You can find the full report here

New emission rules for Oregon

Cleaner Air Oregon was passed by the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission to allow state officials to regulate new categories of toxic emissions. 

“Today’s vote marks the most significant step towards ensuring Oregonian’s right to clean air in 30 years,” said Governor Kate Brown in a Nov 15th press release

The law will grant the public greater access to air toxics emissions data, as well as change emissions standards. In 2019, the DEQ will launch a pilot project in Portland that will regulate the various kinds of toxic pollution released by multiple facilities in a single neighborhood.

Read more about the law in a story from Cascadia Times here, and below there’s a video from the state offering background on the new rules. It was released in the summer of 2018 to inform neighbors about the final comment period for the rules change.  

If you’d like to receive email updates from Cleaner Air Oregon’s process, go here. You can file a complaint about pollution in your community here

To stay informed on the campaign against toxic emissions, follow South Portland Air Quality and Neighbors for Clean Air on Facebook.

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