MAY 1998

 

MAY 1998 FULL ISSUE

BAD AIR DAYS: UNBRIDLED TOXIC FUMES WILT THE CITY OF ROSES

By PAUL KOBERSTEIN

The oil industry has become the largest source of unabated air pollution in the Portland area. On certain days, as many as seven oil companies load gasoline into barges at their docks in Northwest Portland.  And when they do, residents of nearby neighborhoods might as well be living next to a large oil refinery - or worse.

Gasoline vapors typically build up inside tankers and barges during shipping. When the vessels are reloaded, these fumes escape to the outside air. The amounts that escape are surprisingly massive, and overall emissions can multiply on days when more than one barge is filling up. The fumes are dangerous, too, yet only one dock is fitted with air pollution controls of any kind.

And when the barges pollute, Cascadia Times has learned, they do so without the authorization of federal air contamination discharge permits.

Now, the state Department of Environmental Quality - which has the job of issuing federal permits in Oregon - is proposing new permits that would, for the first time, legalize the emissions and allow further increased emissions at five gasoline loading facilities. The increases would come at a time when the gasoline terminals are expected to reduce emissions by more than 20 percent, in order to comply with an air pollution reduction plan approved in 1997 by the Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, the DEQ is saying the emissions may increase by another 100 tons a year.

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Paul Koberstein