DEQ visits 'Foamhenge' in St. Helens following complaint
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality officials conducted a site inspection in St. Helens after receiving a complaint about a Styrofoam structure being used near the Columbia River for Spirit of Halloweentown festivities.
Laura Gleim, a public affairs specialist for DEQ, confirmed the department received an anonymous complaint Oct. 1 and conducted a site visit Friday, Oct. 12. Gleim said a DEQ evaluation has not yet been completed, but is expected later this month.
The Stryofoam structures — made to resemble Stonehenge in England and coined "Foamhenge" locally — gained attention from several business owners earlier this year when they were used in conjunction with an event called Festival of the Fairies. The pieces were also used last October, but since then several business owners have expressed concern about the potential environmental impact of Styrofoam in use so close to the Columbia River.
After extended use and several months of outdoor storage, pieces of foam were breaking off and could be found littering the ground along the city's waterfront.
Patricia Forbes, owner of Artifacts: A Tinker's Marketplace on Strand Street, organized a paper petition in March, which gathered more than 60 signatures in opposition to their use.
The Stonehenge props were removed several months over the summer after the inaugural Festival of the Fairies in March, but when they returned to the waterfront in advance of a newly organized Festival of the Fairies event for the month of October, protestors again expressed concerns.
Thomas O'Hanlon helped organize a digital petition using the website www.change.org and collected 374 signatures as of Wednesday, Oct. 17. The petition gained the attention of several media outlets.
Tina Curry, the city's contracted event planner, said the Styrofoam pieces were clear-coated when received and noted some have been resealed this year with flex seal, an adhesive bonding product. City Administrator John Walsh said the pieces will be coated again with a fiberglass material after the Spirit of Halloweentown festival concludes, prior to being moved to indoor storage.
Walsh recognized some of the concerns regarding the Stonehenge structure, but also noted that the display is meant to be temporary. The pieces have also been moved further behind protective fencing to reduce the possibility people can reach in and break off chunks.
"We recognize they're fragile and we're certainly not wanting to see them damaged as assets," Walsh said.
Curry said vandalism to the pieces occurred earlier this year, causing some degradation to the structures.
"I can tell you there are tons more cigarette butts there discarded than anything coming off the stones. We have people that walk there every day looking to see if they find anything," Curry stated in an email to the Spotlight. "They have not been finding much of anything except inside the fence where it got vandalized, we occasionally will find a piece. We pick them up and dispose of anything we find."
Curry added that many outdoor props are made from foam material, which can withstand outdoor conditions if cared for properly and not subject to vandalism.
The Styrofoam structures were obtained last fall as a film prop from the TV show "Grimm," which was filmed in Portland, and are being used throughout the month of October for Spirit of Halloweentown activities.