In response to the threat of a lawsuit over its failure to report air emissions of fluoride, Intel Corp. has agreed to test for air pollution at its Oregon facilities and conduct a risk assessment.
Intel reached a settlement agreement Thursday with Neighbors for Clean Air and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center. The two groups had threatened to sue the company for violating the Clean Air Act when it failed to report fluoride air pollution from its operations in Oregon to the state Department of Environmental Quality.
The agreement commits the company to spending $150,000 on air quality monitoring at its two computer chip manufacturing plants in Hillsboro and Aloha, and completing a health risk assessment for the surrounding community. The risk assessment will be based on those conducted by California's Air Resources Board.. The agreement also establishes an advisory committee to oversee its implementation.
Mary Peveto, president of Neighbors for Clean Air, said the company's commitment goes beyond the requirements of Oregon law to ensure the health and safety of the communities surrounding Intel's facilities.
"These are huge industrial facilities with very close residential neighbors," she said. "What the community was most interested in was ensuring that public health would be protected from any potential air emissions from Intel's facilities."
Air testing will give the community more information about what pollutants the company is actually emitting. If the company's risk assessment of those pollutants shows the facilities present an "unacceptable risk" to the community, the settlement agreement commits Intel to further action to reduce its air pollution.
"This is a huge commitment," Peveto said. "What Intel is committing to is a process to alleviate the fears and anxiety of the community by being very transparent and giving them real information and addressing through analysis of what potentially poses a risk to the community."
Intel Communication Manager Chelsea Hossaini said the agreement "represents Intel's ongoing commitment to the community and to improving our environmental performance."
The settlement comes on top of a Oregon DEQ enforcement action against Intel. The state agency fined the company $143,000 in April for failing to report its fluoride emissions for decades. Intel releases fluoride in the process of making silicone wafers for computer chips at its two Oregon facilities. Officials with Intel and DEQ say the company only realized the oversight as it was preparing an application to expand its manufacturing facilities.
Peveto said the company's failure to report its fluoride emissions threw off the permitting process for that expansion, and that was the basis of her group's legal action.
"They did not have lawful permits in place when they started the expansion," she said.
Oregon DEQ is holding a meeting to discuss its enforcement action against Intel from 6 to 9 pm Thursday at the City of Hillsboro Civic Center, 150 East Main St.