A 2016 study by the United States Forest Service (USFS) analyzed moss samples collected around Portland for concentrations of heavy metals. USFS found cadmium at the highest concentrations near the Bullseye Glass manufacturing facility. Cadmium is a top concern of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). To better understand what was in the air, DEQ placed an air monitor near the facility, and the results showed cadmium and arsenic were at levels that exceeded health benchmarks.
Starting in May of 2016, EHAP convened a series of Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meetings, made up of residents who live and/or work within a half mile of Bullseye. EHAP structured CAC meetings in ways to provide an opportunity for meaningful participation. These meetings were designed to:
- Receive input and feedback from the local residents into the exposure assumption and scenarios that would be used in the PHA.
- Educate participants about the PHA process and build community capacity in environmental health.
- Develop relationships with local residents to help build trust in the long-term PHA process.
- Identify the most relevant way of communicating to the broader community about the PHA and the conclusions and recommendations that will result from the process.
- Ensure that community concerns are highlighted, incorporated and addressed through the PHA process.
EHAP engaged the broader community through education and listening sessions at public information sessions, meetings and additional events organized by agency partners, including Multnomah County Health Department, DEQ and others. Community members used these events to express realistic, insightful concerns and convey valid emotional distress towards their community's wellbeing. They expressed the importance of knowing whether their health was at risk and advocated for change to prevent similar situations in the future.
As EHAP was completing the public health assessment, information came to light regarding problems with the quality of some of the data collected in the vicinity of Bullseye. Unfortunately, this discovery caused significant delays as several experts reviewed the validity of the data. EHAP received guidance from ATSDR on how to move forward with the PHA in December 2019, but these efforts were further delayed due to limited resources during OHA's COVID-19 response. Frustrations from these delays were well-founded as the community has awaited findings from the public health assessment.
To prevent situations similar to those related to Bullseye Glass in the future, Governor Brown directed DEQ and OHA to establish the Cleaner Air Oregon (link)
program. This new regulatory program requires industrial facilities that emit air pollutants to report to DEQ what they emit and in what quantities, assess risk to neighbors posed by their emissions, and then DEQ regulates their emissions based on the risks posed.
Community engagment and transparency are key components of the Cleaner Air Oregon program.