EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Peter and Pam Hayes's claim about herbicide exposure in the forest of the Oregon Coast Range begins the same way as most from the news in recent years.

On May 17, they and two others were out tending their property. They heard a helicopter in the distance and thought little of it. Then, they say, they began to smell and taste chemicals.

“The helicopter was not over me. It was not droplets. It was just a super strong, strong taste," Pam said.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife drew hard questions from conservationists Thursday night in Portland as it sought comment on its latest budget proposal.

In a stuffy hotel conference room over the hum of a projector, ODFW Director Curt Melcher explained the agency's current budget situation, how a new task force had been established to seek new revenue sources and that no major changes were planned for any of the agency's programs.

A federal jury in Seattle has awarded a former BNSF Railway worker, and whistleblower, more than $1.6 million.

In 2010, Curtis Rookaird alerted federal officials that his employer had told him to forego an important brake test on a train carrying oil and hazardous materials. He was later fired.

Teachers and kids at Harrison Elementary in Cottage Grove spend the entire school year fundraising for just a four-day trip in May. But those four days at Camp Tadmor in Lebanon — spent canoeing, fishing, studying wildlife and environments, and doing team-building activities — leave an impression on kids that can last a lifetime, say leaders and teachers who have come back year after year for decades.

Think Out Loud went to Camp Tadmor on May 26 to find out what learning outdoors does for kids and why adults have such affection for outdoor school.

Judges Reject Steens Mountain Wind Project

May 26, 2016

The Ninth District Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, and rejected a wind turbine project on Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon.

The 104-megawatt project would have included energy transmission lines that cut across potential sage grouse habitat within the protected Steens Cooperative Project.

Cascade Locks Leaders Say Nestle Fight Isn't Over

May 26, 2016

City administrator Gordon Zimmerman is quick with the numbers. Sure, Hood River County voters backed Measure 14-55 by a large margin last week.

But as Zimmerman notes, the stats went the other way in Cascade Locks.

The Portland company Precision Castparts met Wednesday night with a group of neighbors concerned about air pollution from the company. Precision Castparts manufactures parts for airplane engines.

Air monitoring data released by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality last week showed higher than normal concentrations of nickel near the company’s foundry, but regulators said the nickel was not at a level that causes a risk to public health.

Lead test results are in for nearly 200 people who live and work near Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland. So far, none of them shows lead levels that would require medical care or follow-up.

Efforts To Ban Oil Projects In Vancouver Move Forward

May 25, 2016

Efforts to ban future crude oil projects in Vancouver are moving forward. The city of Vancouver’s planning commission voted Tuesday to prohibit future crude oil storage facilities.

“And to prohibit the expansion of any existing crude oil facilities," said Sandra Towne, the city’s long-range planning manager.

The proposal would also prohibit petroleum refineries, she said.

News of toxic lead in the air and water have many parents on high alert. Lead poisoning in children can cause permanent brain damage.

Supporters wore blue. Opponents wore red.

Hundreds of people from Oregon and Washington gathered at a public hearing in Longview Tuesday to offer their views on the proposed Millennium Coal Terminal.

The Northwest’s art glass industry is under the gun over what it’s putting in the region’s air. Portland-based Bullseye Glass is in the midst of a 10-day production moratorium and is cutting back staff. Last week, facing similar pressures, a Washington-based company decided to shut down for good.

Oregon’s House Interim Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use and Water held a hearing Monday on potential conservation measures for a remote high desert and canyon land area known as the Owyhee in Southeast Oregon.

Clean Air Advocates Converge On Oregon Senate Hearing

May 23, 2016

Hundreds of people, worried about clean air, converged on Oregon’s Legislature Monday, to speak at a senate hearing.

Last week Gov. Kate Brown issued a cease and desist order to Bullseye Glass, after air monitors identified it as a source of lead emissions.

Mary Peveto with "Neighbors For Clean Air" called it a sea-change event — for the state to use health as the basis for air emission standards.

A Beaverton middle school is the latest place to confront exposure to a toxic metal. Beaverton School District officials announced Monday they found lead in two drinking water fountains at Highland Park Middle School.

District staff have shut off the water fountains at Highland Park and provided water dispensers in classrooms. The district is not providing lead testing for students at the school, but they recommend concerned parents consult their children's physician.

Bullseye Glass is cutting back hours in response to a state order to limit its production. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said the company may not make glass using a list of nine metals. Bullseye said this effectively eliminates 80 percent of its product lines.

Jim Jones, Bullseye’s director of sales, said for the next three weeks, about 15 employees will be idle.

Jones said people are not being dismissed outright, but the company expects some attrition.

Already mired in a number of toxic air findings, Portland — in less than 24 hours — has found itself facing three more developments that appear to indicate the air has not yet cleared. Here's a roundup of the latest news, plus where the heavy metals readings are located.

A Cease And Desist Order For Bullseye

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has cited a Portland chrome plating company for three violations of air pollution rules.

The announcement of the violations comes as officials search for the source of hexavalent chromium detected in air monitors near the Bullseye Glass facility in Southeast Portland. At elevated levels, hexavalent chromium can cause cancer. Officials are investigating a rail yard, a trucking facility and two chrome-plating facilities.

Air testing found elevated levels of nickel, hexavalent chromium and arsenic near the Southeast Portland manufacturing company Precision Castparts between March 30 and May 4.

The levels were above the state's health-based goals for air quality but below what would cause acute health risks for people nearby. Officials say there is no immediate public health threat from exposure to heavy metal air pollution in the area.

Marijuana cultivation is estimated to use one percent of America’s electricity output. That’s enough juice to power 1.7 million average homes.

And as more states make the drug legal in some form, that power consumption is expected to soar. Northwest energy officials project cannabis grows will suck up three percent of the region’s power by 2035.

Now, efforts are underway to get growers to reduce their energy use.

John Kagia cuts right to the chase.

“Indoor cannabis cultivation is extraordinarily energy intensive," he flatly states.

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