The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) received results from eight off-site soil samples required under the October 2019 cleanup plan for J.H. Baxter's (Baxter) wood treatment facility in Eugene.
Four results, including one in the Bethel Neighborhood directly north of the facility and three stormwater ditch locations, indicated elevated levels of dioxins, a group of toxic chemicals.
Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reviewed these draft results and determined the levels do not represent a public health risk. However, the levels in those four samples are elevated above DEQ's standard residential cleanup levels so this means that the soils need to be further investigated to determine if corrective action and cleanup is needed.
DEQ has formed a technical work group which includes OHA, Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA), and the City of Eugene to investigate the sources and extent of the contamination and to further evaluate any potential risks to the community.
Further, the agencies are developing a community engagement group. This group will work closely with the technical work group to help inform the investigation, as well as share information with the general community.
The 31-acre site at 85 Baxter Street has been an active wood treatment facility since the early 1940s. Historical spills and operational practices have resulted in soil and groundwater contamination. Further, the facility has had issues with air emissions and concerns from residents about odors and possible, related health effects.
Over the years, DEQ and LRAPA have investigated the facility and issued numerous enforcement actions and required cleanup measures. In October 2019, DEQ issued a cleanup plan, called a Record of Decision, which required this offsite sampling along with other cleanup actions onsite. Also in 2019, LRAPA included Baxter in the first set of facilities in Lane County to go through the Cleaner Air Oregon process.
Additional sampling of air, water, and soil will be completed with oversight from the technical work group. Communications with the public will continue through the community engagement group as more information becomes available through this winter and next spring.