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Persistent Brentwood-Darlington concerns about possible emissions at Precision Castparts are addressed

DAVID F. ASHTON - These air filtration systems, at the Precision Castparts Corporation Structurals Large Parts Campus - some of them recently updated - seem to be working effectively, according to the DEQ.  Originally, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) had slated the evening of March 18 for a public meeting about community concerns centering on the Precision Castparts Corporation Structurals Large Parts Campus (PCCS) plant on S.E. Johnson Creek Boulevard. Given the Governor's current ban on public meetings, it was moved online. Most of the results announced there seemed to be reassuring about pollution concerns.

The topics presented during the meeting were wide ranging, including the results from the ambient air toxics monitor at S.E. 45th Avenue and Harney Drive; the status of the facility's permit; and a report from "Cleaner Air Oregon" representatives.

Altogether, some fifty PowerPoint slides were used to illustrate the four topic areas:

· Public Health Assessment

· Statewide Air Toxics Summary Report

· Cleaner Air Oregon status

· Air Quality Permit status

Todd Hudson, a toxicologist from the Oregon Health Authority, presented outlines of studies which included DEQ monitoring; PCCS monitoring by an environmental consulting firm; and a Portland State University STAR Lab project, which measured metals in residential areas near the facility, and concluded there has been "no impact to health" in air, soil, surface water, sediment, and even the crayfish nearby.

The caveat was that there is insufficient information about historical air emissions, prior to installation of air control devices.

Next, ODEQ's air quality studies of ambient air samples compared annual averages to benchmarks [health-based goals] -- and typical levels that were measured showed no air toxics at levels that would pose an immediate health risk.

However, seven air toxics were measured above "health-based goals" at all locations measured around the facility. The paradox, though, was that levels of Arsenic, Benzene, Carbon tetrachloride, Ethylbenzene (primarily from vehicle exhaust), Naphthalene, Acetaldehyde, and Formaldehyde were each found to be at lower levels near the plant than in the average measurements taken across the city, making sources unclear.

Then, representatives of the "Cleaner Air Oregon" (CAO) rulemaking process showed slides detailing the numerous steps to be taken before a new permit could be issued to PCCS for the facility.

A discussion of "Air Quality Permit requirements" came next. Charts and graphs showed the limits of various pollutants, including annual plant site emission limits, for:

· Particulate Matter

· Nitrogen Oxides

· Carbon Monoxide

· Sulfur Oxides

· Volatile Organic Compounds

· Single and Combined Hazardous Air Pollutants

Air quality inspections, from 2010 through the most recent on December 17, 2019, showed "no violations observed", when tested by a third-party.

Neighbors chime in

After the meeting, Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association Board Member Pam Hodge, who has been following the issue, commented on the meeting.

"Neighbors are skeptical of OHA/DEQ messaging that 'everything is fine', given DEQ's history of lax regulatory enforcement; and, we're wondering why PCCS has been allowed to continue to operate on an air quality permit that expired in 2012," Hodge told THE BEE. "We are hopeful that the Cleaner Air Oregon process will result in closer scrutiny of PCCS emissions, with robust public engagement at every stage,"

Comments from Precision Castparts

"It's true, the agencies covered a lot of ground during the meeting," remarked Precision Castparts Corporation Corporate Communications Director David Dugan.

"First, we are pleased that the Oregon Health Authority's Public Health Assessment recognizes the [pollution] controls in place at our Large Parts Campus, and have concluded that PCC Structurals' operations are unlikely to be harmful to the health of the community.

"We have been taking, and continue to take very seriously, our commitment to operate in a safe and responsible manner," Dugan told THE BEE. "We're looking forward to moving forward within the new program, and to the issuance of a new air permit."

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