EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

A New York law firm that works with environmental activist Erin Brockovich said it wants to investigate the emissions from Portland art glass factories

The firm is Weitz & Luxemberg, and it's the latest to offer free consultations to Portland residents.

The firm worked on a number of high profile class action cases, including the settlement against BP for the 2010 gulf oil spill.

Attorney Robin Greenwald said a range of legal issues might be raised by the glass factory emissions, include negligence, nuisance and trespass.

Washington state regulators are setting aside the rules they’ve been working on to limit the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted into the air.

The Department of Ecology was instructed by Gov. Jay Inslee to draw up the rules. Originally they targeted about 40 companies including oil refineries, utilities, pulp and paper mills, and steel and concrete manufacturers.

Ecology held meetings with representatives of some of those companies before Friday’s announcement that it was suspending its rule-making process.

Since the discovery of heavy metals pollution coming from an artistic glass manufacturer in Portland, Washington regulators have taken a close look at a similar facility near Seattle. So far, they say, they’re not worried – in part because air monitors nearby aren't detecting elevated metals in the area.

Spectrum Glass in Woodinville, Washington, uses metals to make the same kind of colored glass products as Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland. But unlike Bullseye it hasn't been using arsenic and it has pollution controls on many of its furnaces.

When the steamship Belvedere left San Francisco in the spring of 1897, its crew members couldn’t have known what a treacherous voyage awaited them.

Their life-and-death experiences would all be captured in the ship’s log, which started out with this unassuming entry:

“Steamer Belvedere departed San Francisco March 9, 1897. At 3 PM took anchor, steamed to sea with a crew of 44 men, all told, bound to the Arctic Ocean.”

OR DEQ Seeks $1.5 Million To Test, Regulate Air Pollution

Feb 23, 2016

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Director Dick Pedersen told state lawmakers Tuesday his agency needs $1.5 million for air pollution work in light of the recent discovery of airborne heavy metals in Portland.

Recent air testing found unhealthy levels of cadmium and arsenic in the air in Southeast Portland. Regulators have linked the heavy metals to a facility that uses metals to make colored glass but the detections have raised a lot of questions about why regulators didn't know until now how much cadmium and arsenic Bullseye Glass was emitting.

Port of Longview Rejects Plan For Refinery, Propane Terminal

Feb 23, 2016

Port of Longview commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to end talks with an energy company that wants to build the first oil refinery on the West Coast in more than 25 years.

Since officials announced the discovery of unhealthy levels of arsenic and cadmium in the air in Southeast Portland earlier this month, they've released a lot of new information about airborne heavy metals and the associated public health risks.

Here's what you should know at this point:

The discovery came from testing tree moss.

Three members of Oregon's congressional delegation are asking federal agencies to help state and local officials identify health risks of airborne heavy metals in Portland.

The fallout from the discovery of unhealthy heavy metals in Portland's air continues.

The Oregon Health Authority has recommended people in Southeast Portland not eat vegetables from backyard gardens, some residents are getting their hair and urine tested, and two glass factories have stopped using cadmium and arsenic to color their glass.

And now, in what is one of the stranger consequences of the health scare, a Japanese artist has agreed to forgo the ritual burning of his artwork, which has been on display at Reed College, not far from Bullseye Glass.

About 200 residents gathered at Harriet Tubman Middle School Thursday for a second community meeting on the recent discovery of heavy metals in the air in Portland.

The meeting was much like the first session last week, with officials from Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Forest Service and Portland Public Schools available to answer questions and hear concerns.

The hike down into remote Eagle Canyon is a steep, slippery affair. There are no trails, just staggered juniper and gullies of loose rocks – and the occasional line of barbed wire fence.

“It’s amazing to me how these fences were built down some of these scree slopes,” says Craig Terry about the hands who originally strung miles and miles of barbed wire on land that used to be Wagner and Pine Creek Ranches.

“And now we’re taking them out," he says.

Air pollution discovered in Portland has led some leaders to consider the formation of a local air quality agency.

Portland area leaders are reacting to the discovery earlier this month of arsenic, cadmium and chromium in the air of Southeast and North Portland. The elements are potentially harmful, even carcinogenic.

Glass manufacturers who the Department of Environmental Quality identified as the main sources of the chemicals have suspended their industrial use of those elements — though state officials note the companies were operating within permitted guidelines.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Thursday he's worried about the regulatory gap that allowed high levels of heavy metals pollution to be released into the air in Portland.

At a press conference Thursday, Wyden joined Sen. Jeff Merkley and Congressman Earl Blumenauer, both Oregon Democrats, to discuss the recent discovery of arsenic and cadmium in the air at levels that raise the risk of cancer.

Bull Run Quake Science

Feb 18, 2016

A Cascadia earthquake will spell trouble for Portland's water supply. But is there any way to know how bad the shaking will be? Divers explore the protected Bull Run Lake, source of Portland's water, in search of evidence from past earthquakes that could shed light on how big the "big one" will be for the Portland area.

Portland Water Bureau

Will Methanol Be The New Aroma Of Tacoma?

Feb 18, 2016

UPDATE: On Friday the company behind Tacoma's proposed methanol plant announced it was temporarily putting its proposal on hold, saying it has been "surprised by the tone and substance of vocal opposition." Click here for details.

Standing in front of a stained glass window in his showroom, Uroboros Glass President Eric Lovell walks through some of the colors and the metals used to make them.

"You're looking at chrome and copper greens, gold pinks and iron sulfide ambers," he said. "The yellow border there and the parrot feathers, reds and oranges, are the cadmium colors that are the current topic."

Inside the North Portland workshop, employees scoop glowing, molten glass out of 2200-degree furnaces.

The coal industry has been having a hard time lately.

Coal usage in the U.S. has been declining for years. That's prompted coal companies in the West to try to export their coal to Asia via ports in Washington, Oregon and California.

Q&A: What We Know About Portland's Toxic Air Emissions

Feb 16, 2016

Two air-pollution hotspots in Portland have many residents worried about exposure to arsenic, cadmium, and now hexavalent chromium, which can be highly carcinogenic.

The hotspots have drawn attention to two glassmakers, which have now suspended the use of any of those materials in their production processes.

This scare has drawn attention to what you’ve called a blind spot in air pollution regulations. Can you remind us what it is and how it was discovered?

Warm Waters Linked To Sea Star Wasting

Feb 16, 2016

During the height of the sea star die-offs in 2014, millions of stars up and down the West Coast were wasting away. At the same time, sea surface temperatures in the northeast Pacific Ocean were the warmest recorded in decades.

Scientists suspected a connection.

Govs. Jay Inslee of Washington and Kate Brown of Oregon were among the 17 state executives to sign onto a clean-energy agreement announced Tuesday.

The “Governors Accord for a New Energy Future” brings together Republican and Democratic governors from across the country.

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