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'A lot happens in the first couple hours of a spill,' said Scott Smith, a DEQ emergency response planner. 'We need those eyes in the field.'

OPB PHOTO - Construction continues at the Zenith Terminals site in Northwest Portland in early February, 2019.The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has sent a warning letter flagging violations at the Zenith Energy oil terminal in Portland.

The company moves crude oil from rail cars to storage tanks and outbound ships in Portland's northwest industrial district. The facility has drawn fierce opposition from environmental groups and the company has been criticized for hiding its plans to offload and ship diluted bitumen, a form of crude oil that comes from tar sands in Canada and is more complicated and expensive to clean up after a spill.

According to a warning letter sent earlier this month, oil spill prevention officials with DEQ recently found several of the company's storage tanks haven't been inspected in more than five years, putting the facility behind schedule under the industry standard Zenith agreed to follow to comply with state law.

"Failure to conduct regular testing of tanks and associated piping can increase the probability of spills that may have been preventable," the letter states. "DEQ is concerned that additional tanks may be out of compliance with their inspection schedule including several tanks which are long overdue for inspection but not listed as out of service."

Officials also found the person the company appointed to be in charge of its oil spill response plan lives about four hours away.

Click here to read the rest of the story by OPB, a news partner of the Portland Tribune.

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