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City of Roses Disposal wins grant to retrofit smoky exhaust pipes and stay competitive



PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE  - City of Roses Disposal & Recycling will retrofit eight rigs this summer to filter out toxic diesel fumes, and replace a ninth vehicle. That could help the company compete with bigger players that boast of their green practices.  Alando Simpson has a burning need to be more green.

He already is vice president of a company that salvages and recycles construction and demolition debris, City of Roses Disposal & Recycling. But Simpson has to keep up with the big boys. As clean diesel engines become more common, other builders and haulers with deeper pockets can brag that their diesel equipment runs clean to the highest standards. 

So Simpson was pleased when he was awarded a $154,000 grant to retrofit eight of his diesel rig exhaust systems, plus $75,000 to replace one truck. This will eliminate most of the toxic diesel soot spewing from his heavy vehicles.

“These scrubbers or filters will secure my ability to have work in the future,” he says, standing in the mud at his material recovery facility near Portland International Airport. Simpson competes with the second-largest hauler in the world, Republic Services, and the fifth-largest, Recology, to haul debris.

“They have the capital to react when the mandate comes. But this will give me another little strategy, in terms of a talking point, of what we’re doing to be more environmentally sensitive in the neighborhood.”

Rose City remade itself in 2007 by targeting LEED projects that needed a high rate of recycling to gain green-building certification points. Right now, Rose City’s trucks are hauling wood, Sheetrock, glass, cardboard and metal from the Vista Rosas Apartments renovation on Northeast Killingsworth Street.

Simpson was helped by Beyond Toxics, led by Lisa Arkin. She won a 2015 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Diesel Particulate Reduction Grant, and went straight to City of Roses Disposal & Recycling and Lane Apex, a garbage-hauling company that collects streetside garbage in West Eugene.

The grant is to work in “environmental justice neighborhoods that already suffer disproportionately from exposure to air toxics,” Arkin explains. That includes neighborhoods like Cully in Northeast Portland, where heavy traffic thunders past low-income apartment projects, spreading diesel fumes from vehicles built before 2008. That’s the year federal standards kicked in that required manufacturers to only sell clean-diesel engines. Compared to the street traffic, the cleaner Rose City trucks won’t make a big difference to residents’ health. As with many green baby steps, it’s more about the message.

Kevin Downing, coordinator of the Clean Diesel Program of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, says the 500-yard-deep plume of exhaust fumes spilling from interstate highways is a major killer. Diesel exhaust exposure causes up to 468 premature deaths per year in Oregon, he calculates, using Environmental Protection Agency data.

Downing figures every dollar spent converting pre-2008 diesel engines to be as clean-burning as the modern ones will yield $10 in public health benefits.

“We’re looking for pioneers like Alando to step up and serve as a leadership model,” Downing says. “It’s good for commerce and good for the environment. But it’s hard to make a business case for this because it represents an added expense.”

When the scrubbers are fitted sometime this summer, Rose City Recycling will be able to bid on hauling work at the massive Con-Way redevelopment in Northwest Portland, where the neighborhood association negotiated a deal requiring the use of clean-diesel trucks and construction equipment.

Simpson’s pitch: his company will have clean diesel trucks, and it’s also local, sustainable and ethical.

“The people I compete with,” Simpson says, “their profits go to San Francisco and Houston, whereas the highest return comes from investing in our own local assets.”

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