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Uroboros packs up glass works, heads to Mexico
Uroboros' environmental problems in Portland surfaced in February after the Portland Mercury newspaper published the results of a U.S. Forest Service study that used moss collected from trees to measure air pollutants gathered in the moss, and develop maps of polluted pocketsÂ in the city. The study found alarmingly high levels of cadmium near two stained-glass manufacturers,Â Uroboros and Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland. Cadmium is both a carcinogen and neurotoxin.
Uroboros, the stained-glass manufacturer under fire last year for unlawful discharges of toxic metals into the air in North Portland, has been sold. Its product line soon will be manufactured at a plant more than 1,000 miles south, in Tijuana, Mexico.
"I am delighted to announce that a sale of Uroboros Glass' name, equipment, technology and formulas has been completed, and that the future of its many iconic products is now secured," Eric Lovell, company president and founder, said in a statement released last week on the company website.
Lovell said all production at the Portland plant, located at 2139 N. Kirby Ave., will be discontinued by early May. Production at the Tijuana plant, to be owned by Carlsbad, California-based Oceanside Glasstile, is projected to begin the first week of May, he said.
The announcement was preceded by the company's disclosure last September that after more than 43 years of continual operations in Portland, it would close in early 2017. The company reported about 50 employees.
At the time, Lovell cited the "very high costs of meeting many new environmental, fire safety, and seismic regulations now required by our city and state."
Uroboros' environmental problems in Portland surfaced in February after the Portland Mercury newspaper published the results of a U.S. Forest Service study that used moss collected from trees to measure air pollutants gathered in the moss, and develop maps of polluted pockets in the city. The study found alarmingly high levels of cadmium near two stained-glass manufacturers, Uroboros and Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland. Cadmium is both a carcinogen and neurotoxin.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality subsequently announced that neither glass company was using air-pollution controls that are needed to strip toxic compounds out of their air emissions. It ordered the companies to install the equipment.
Bullseye initially fought the order, but Uroboros stopped using cadmium and chromium — a variety of which is also a potent carcinogen — and agreed to install the pollution-control equipment.
Subsequent air monitoring conducted by the DEQ found cadmium levels in the city that were 49 times greater than a benchmark designed to protect public health. The level was high enough to pose a health risk from even short-term exposure. The DEQ also found levels of arsenic that were 159 times higher than a benchmark.
However, Uroboros said it did not use arsenic, unlike Bullseye.
Meanwhile, the moss study triggered a public uproar that swept throughout the city. Portlanders banded together and formed a powerful new environmental group, Eastside Portland Air Coalition, which now claims to have more than 3,500 members and is advocating for tighter air-quality regulations for the entire state. It also is casting a wider net as it pursues polluters from Milwaukie to Hayden Island and The Dalles.
Jennifer Jones, one of EPAC's founding members, said the group will urge Uroboros' new owners to "do the right thing" after they move operations down to Mexico, a country that historically has been plagued with poor air quality but has made visible progress in recent years.
"We know heavy metals are a real concern when manufacturing colored art glass," Jones said. "We can't ignore that problem because it moves away from our own neighborhoods. This is a problem for our world, not just our city."
Lovell said in his web statement that he has visited the Tijuana plant, "and can personally attest to seeing a very clean state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in a new industrial neighborhood of modern electronic, automotive and aerospace manufacturing facilities. It is staffed with well-trained, enthusiastic professionals who manage a responsibly equipped production process that is also remarkably supportive of its employees, their families, and their community."