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Precision Castparts will hold community meeting on air quality tonight

Posted by on May 25th, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Precision's factory in southeast Portland. (Photo: South Portland Air Quality)

Precision’s factory in southeast Portland.
(Photo: South Portland Air Quality)

A major industrial metal parts manufacturer with a factory just a few hundred feet away from the Springwater Corridor biking path is holding a meeting tonight (5/25) to talk about air quality.

Precision Castparts Corporation will host a community meeting from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Monarch Hotel in Clackamas (12566 SE 93rd Avenue, it’s unclear why they’re having it four miles from the community that’s impacted).

Pollution concerns have dominated headlines in Portland for months now. It started when a researcher discovered unhealthy levels of toxic pollutants coming from a glass factory in southeast Portland. The issue became a major topic in the Portland mayoral campaign, has led to a class-action lawsuit and has galvanized local activists. Dozens of people rallied and testified at the state capitol yesterday to put the issue in front of lawmakers. Also yesterday the Oregon Environmental Council published a new report about dirty air from diesel truck engines which they say causes up to 460 premature deaths each year.

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Graphic showing emissions near the Springwater from researcher Alex Bigazzi at Portland State University.

Graphic showing emissions near the Springwater from researcher Alex Bigazzi at Portland State University.

Air being emitted from Precision Castparts factory on SE Johnson Creek Blvd is another front in the battle. Recent research from Portland State University has shown that the air around the Springwater path is some of the worst in the city.

According to Jacob Sherman with advocacy group South Portland Air Quality, “Neighbors have been putting a ton of pressure on Precision to improve their environmental footprint and tonight the company is hosting their own meeting to communicate what they are doing, and to answer community questions and concerns.”

SPAQ asked the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to monitor PCC’s emissions back in March and the results are now available. SPAQ calls them “disturbing”:

“It is troubling that concentrations of arsenic, hexavalent chromium, and nickel were over health-based benchmarks. Arsenic was measured at four times the ambient benchmark, hexavalent chromium was measured at 1.2 times the ambient benchmark, and nickel was measured at 1.6 times the ambient benchmark.”

And although the Oregon Health Authority says there’s, “no indication of an immediate health threat,” Sherman isn’t buying it. “This statement ignores the potential long term health impacts facing nearby residents,” he wrote on the group’s blog.

Five years ago Precision came under fire from neighbors after their factory emitted a toxic cloud of hydrochloric and nitric acid that caused respiratory injuries for two firefighters and forced evacuations nearby. Now the company is on the hot seat again after being named in an air quality probe by the Oregon State Senate.

Sherman said he sees bicycle riders as a critical stakeholder in these discussions given the popularity of the Springwater path and its proximity to the Precision Castparts factory.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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13 Comments
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    Alex Reedin May 25, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    An illustration of the impact of Precision Castparts (and the other nearby industrial facilities) on Springwater bike riders’ lungs –

    http://bikeportland.org/2014/07/23/psu-breathing-research-109110

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 25, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Thanks for reminding me about that Alex. Added some of that to the article. Been doing this so long now I’ve forgotten our own archives.

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    Bald One May 25, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Jonathan, thanks for covering this topic! It would be great to see more articles about Portland’s air quality on your site in the future. As I was catching a whiff of the freeway traffic pollution smells this morning on the Eastbank Esplanade, I was dreading the upcoming pollution season that gets worse as it heats up around here. I’m glad the issue is beginning to pivot a bit more among the air quality activists and with local politicians toward restricting outdated diesel trucks now that the DEQ seems to want to do something about the point-source emitters from local industrial sources. We can’t let the legislative and enforcement momentum of revelations from these factory polluters leave us with no improvements in tail-pipe emission standards for Oregon. Now is the time to bring Oregon up to date with Calif and Wash.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      You’re welcome Bald One,

      We would love to be more on top of this story.. But we are a staff of only 1.5 people and I no longer devote 100% of my time to reporting. We have to pick and choose what we cover and the air quality stuff has gotten pushed to the side as a result.

      I’m trying to raise money and build our capacity so we can do better, more consistent reporting on this issue (and many others)!

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      B. Carfree May 25, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      California has been cracking down on dirty trucks. Unfortunately, this means that those trucks simply get shipped north to Oregon where the air quality standards and enforcement are more lax. We definitely need to raise our game to prevent this sort of mobile toxic dumping.

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    Glenn F May 25, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    Sound to me like someone needs to clean house at the DEQ and put some in charge that actually cares.

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      Middle of the Road guy May 26, 2016 at 8:46 am

      The DEQ has to balance demands of industry and demands of activists and do what is in the best interest of the state. There will always be some level of byproduct from a process.

      Neither side will ever be happy.

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        Alex Reedin May 27, 2016 at 9:14 am

        That is true, but what’s not noted in your comment is that DEQ appears to have been catering to the needs of industry more than the health of the community for years. For example, Bullseye managed to get a huge exemption written into EPA and DEQ rules after a DEQ employee tipped them off in 2007 to upcoming pollution control rules that would have applied to them. http://www.portlandmercury.com/blogtown/2016/03/04/17729758/by-making-murky-claims-about-periodic-furnaces-bullseye-glass-skirted-epa-regulation

        Thinking that regulators may lean excessively towards industry if not kept in line by vigorous public oversight is not paranoia. It’s called “regulatory capture” and it’s a well-documented and widespread phenomenon. In almost every case, industry has much more time, money, and “experts” to bring to bear in convincing regulators and legislators (and engage in revolving-door and quid-pro-quo activities) than activists do.

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    Mark S May 25, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Sure glad Warren Buffet now owns Precision Castparts. Sure glad I no longer own stock in an air polluting company.

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    rachel b May 25, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks for this, Jonathan. I’m glad to see folks set straight about Portland’s air quality, which is very bad. And also in SE…

    I remember reading Union Pacific nearly doubled their freight/rail traffic from Portland to Chicago in the past year. Doubled! I wonder if Portland benefits significantly from this? We seem to be a throughway for UP–someplace to drag stuff through–increasingly, coal and oil. We are reaping the health fallout, though.

    This financial bonanza, after they somehow (and I STILL don’t understand how they managed this) got a free pass–seemingly no neighborhood(s) input–to move major operations from Albina Yard to the Brooklyn Yard, seemingly overnight several years ago. This brought not only double the train traffic but thousands of reeking freight trucks to previously truck-free, relatively small neighborhood streets, including mine (SE 26th).

    These trucks rattle the houses. They don’t fit in a lane, encroaching on the bike lanes and cyclists. I worry the streets will collapse under their weight. They don’t belong on these narrow residential avenues. And if ODOT indeed succeeds in getting rid of our bike lanes on SE 26th (w/ PBOT complicit) “for cyclist safety,” I’ll know why. Look for a street widening project in your future.

    We have no easy freeway access here, as they had near Albina Yard. These trucks have been a diesel-spewing plague, along with the ever-longer trains. Weren’t semis banned on SE 26th? What happened?

    I know freight’s gotta move, but whose freight are we choking on, exactly, in these skyrocketing expanding rail operations? If it’s not for us, what exactly is Portland getting apart from a big ol’ snootful of choking diesel exhaust? And (potentially) coal dust? And increased danger of being exploded to smithereens (oil trains)?

    http://fortune.com/2015/06/04/union-pacific-railroad/

    “Indeed, the 153-year-old Union Pacific—often referred to as “UP” within the rail industry—is not only outpacing Buffett’s railroad but also beating almost every other industrial company in the Fortune 500. The old-economy warhorse generates profits at a rate that rivals those of the best tech, pharmaceutical, and financial services companies. In 2014, Union Pacific logged $5.18 billion in net profits on sales of $24 billion, for a return-on-revenues ratio of 21.6%. By that measure, the railroad company ties Apple (21.6%) AAPL 1.63% and beats J.P. Morgan (21.3%) JPM 1.52% , Goldman Sachs (21.1%) GS 2.32% , Intel (20.9%) INTC 1.06% , Google (20.2%) GOOG 0.72% , and Pfizer (18.4%) PFE 0.56% . The only non-oil industrial enterprise that ranks higher is forest products producer Weyerhaeuser (22.9%) WY 1.03% , whose sales are one-third those of Union Pacific’s.”
    (Fortune Magazine)

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      Bald One May 26, 2016 at 9:30 am

      Yes, clearly these polluters (trucks) need to pay their own way (UP RR has plenty of money) to clean up their act, fix our streets, and work as a guest in the city for their trans-modal shipping operations. They need to be cracked down on at every level: city, county, state, etc. New rules, better enforcement, safety checks, moving violations, fuel tax compliance, etc.

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        rachel b May 26, 2016 at 1:01 pm

        Hear, hear, Bald One!

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      Grandpa May 27, 2016 at 7:16 am

      I am all for a varied and diverse economy, but the changing nature of Portland has resulted in older businesses being incompatible with the direction that our city is growing. Imagine if the Brooklyn Yards were moved to, say, Canby and the Brooklyn property was repurposed into residential/commercial, with light rail already serving that area. Even the “Felony Flats” area in SE which has long endured the unrepentant pollution from PCC, now has some political capital as it has come to the attention of our sleepwalking politicians that human beings live there.

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