It was good to see a big crowd at the East Portland Air Coalition Community Air Forum Saturday— especially on such a beautiful spring day.
One of my biggest takeaways from the forum is that emissions from Portland’s glass factories aren’t the only local air pollution threats. Both California and Washington have and more stringent air pollution standards, I learned, and according to Department of Environmental Quality data Portland’s air is some of the worst in the nation.
As you can tell from the Portland arsenic concentration map (and common sense), pollution threats are greater near their source.
So what’s being released in Montavilla? After about a year of working through bureaucratic roadblocks thrown up by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, a group called Portland Clean Air was finally able to make many local air emission permits public.
This video shows Seth Woolley, PCA’s spokesman, describing the group’s unintentionally tragic-comedic battle with DEQ to get those permits online. In his talk at the forum, Woolly called for new leadership at DEQ and was one of many voices demanding stronger air quality standards.
PCA’s website makes it easy to search for emission permits in your neighborhood. As you can tell by the image, in and near Montavilla there are four surface coating permits issued, one for electric power generation, and two boiler permits.
Just because a neighboring business has a emissions permit, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a health concern. But it’s also worth noting that many clean air activists don’t believe that Oregon’s air quality standards are strong enough to protect our health. It’s hard to know who to believe, and several of the clean air activists said that those charged with protecting our health are inept or corrupt.
From the Clean Air Portland website:
Surface coating permits (27): East Portland Auto Body (9127 SE Stark); Si’s Auto Body (6708 NE Gilsan); Portland Auto (10000 SE Ankeny); ACP Auto Body (10033 E Burnside).
Electric power generation permit (18): Multnomah County Facilities and Property management (1401 NE 68th Ave.)
Boiler permit (11): Portland Adventist Medical Center (10300 SE Main St.); Marquis Care at Mt. Tabor (6040 SE Belmont)
General reports and permits are issued to an entire industry, the PCA’s site reads, and individual emitters are added to their industry’s general report. All of the six listed emitters are general emitters, and had this on their PCA page: “General emitters have not had their applications scanned yet, so we provide only copies of the forms they would have filled out.”
There’s a lot more to learn apparently. It doesn’t sound like emissions are individually listed for the smaller permit holders; rather they’re tracked by industry. The larger polluters, Title V permits and Standard and Simple Permits are available on the PCA website. Gas stations and dry cleaners are considered emitters, but they aren’t listed.
At the forum, EPAC representatives said concerned Portlanders should reach out to their legislators and demand stronger air quality standards, get involved in their neighborhood clean air organization, or get EPAC’s help to start one.
Tamara Rubin, with Lead Safe America, was one of several other speakers at the forum. She said Portlanders can get a free lead paint test from her organization as well as free soil testing. On April 11th, Rubin is screening a new film called MisLEAD: America’s Secret Epidemic at the Clinton Theater in Portland.
Knowing who has an emissions permit is a good start, and I’ve reached out to EPAC and PCA representatives to get some guidance on how to find and interpret these Montavilla permits— to make sure they’re doing what’s legal and what’s right.