EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

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.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a cease and desist order Thursday against Bullseye Glass Co. in Portland.

The move comes after the Department of Environmental Quality found toxic levels of lead in air monitors near a daycare facility.

DEQ officials recorded lead levels at three times the 24-hour benchmark. Exposure to lead has been shown to decrease IQ levels in children.

Officials say thousands of cormorants abandoned their nests last weekend on an island in the Columbia River and they don’t know why. Reports indicate as many as 16,000 adult birds in the colony left their eggs behind to be eaten by predators including eagles, seagulls and crows.

The birds' mysterious departure comes after the latest wave of government-sanctioned cormorant shooting. It's part of a campaign to reduce the population of birds that are eating imperiled Columbia River salmon.

NW E-Cycle Programs Tested By Electronic Waste Exports

May 19, 2016

When Washington state inspectors visited the Seattle recycling operation Total Reclaim in March, they found several problems with its handling of hazardous waste. They missed the biggest one.

They discovered an improperly labeled trash can full of shop towels. They noted Total Reclaim’s failure to check a box on a form identifying itself as a recycler of dangerous waste. They found open buckets full of oil.

Multnomah County Health Department will hold a lead screening clinic at Southeast Health Center, at 3653 SE 34th Ave., 2-6 p.m. today (Friday 5/20).

Copyright 2016 ERTHFX. To see more, visit ERTHFX.

More than two-thirds of voters in Oregon's Hood River County passed a local ban on commercial water bottling in Tuesday’s election.

The measure was designed to block Nestle’s plans to build a $50 million water bottling plant in the city of Cascade Locks.

Backers of the measure are calling their victory a landslide, and a triumph of David over Goliath. But so far, Nestle and its supporters say they're ready to accept that narrative.

Increased carbon emissions are putting Puget Sound Dungeness crabs at risk, according to new research from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

When fossil fuels burn, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere and much of it is eventually absorbed by the ocean.

Protesters Call For Feds To Stop Killing Cormorants

May 17, 2016

Dozens of protesters rallied outside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Portland Tuesday, calling for federal officials to stop killing cormorants on the Columbia River.

They carried signs with pictures of the black seabirds with yellow beaks and banners calling for officials to "fix the dams" and "end the slaughter."

Federal agents have killed more than 4,500 cormorants in the past two years to keep them from eating threatened and endangered juvenile salmon.

A central Oregon conservation group has filed an intent to sue Portland General Electric over water quality on the lower Deschutes River.

The Deschutes River Alliance said PGE has violated water quality standards for several years by putting a water-mixing device in place at Round Butte Dam, one of three dams the utility operates on the lower Deschutes River.

The underwater device is designed to mix warm water from the top of the reservoir with the cold water at the bottom so water temperatures below the dams might more closely resemble conditions of a free-flowing river.

Timber-dependent counties, environmental groups and a Native American tribe are formally protesting a plan to manage 2.5 million acres of public land in Western Oregon.

Nearly 100 Tiny Quakes Shake Area Around Mount Hood

May 16, 2016

Mount Hood is trembling. They’re not big tremors. But there are a lot of them.

Close to 100 tiny quakes shook the area around Mount Hood Village between 6 p.m. Sunday night and Monday morning.

The largest had a magnitude of 1.9, meaning people didn’t actually feel it.

The U.S. Geological Survey said a quake has to reach a magnitude of 3 before people actually feel it — and even then, they’d have to be sitting quietly, likely on the upper floors of a building.

Fifty-two people were arrested Sunday after camping out on train tracks that service oil refineries in northern Puget Sound.

They were among hundreds of activists who demonstrated against fossil fuels in Anacortes, Washington.

Elizabeth Claydon was one of them. She’s 24 and has never been arrested before.

“We were woken up a little after 5 a.m. with SWAT teams around us,” Claydon said. She said she felt compelled as a young person to push for action on climate change.

University of Washington fisheries professor Ray Hilborn is facing accusations from the environmental group Greenpeace about conflicts of interest and failures to disclose industry funding in some of his research.

Citing documents obtained through public records requests, Greenpeace said Hilborn has received more than $3.56 million from 69 fishing or seafood industry groups since 2003, making up more than 20 percent of his outside funding.