By Greg Bourget | Portland Clean Air Lead Researcher
Concordia neighborhood is near an industrial area and a busy industrial truck route. That is likely to cause dangerous industrial air pollution for neighbors because human health is not considered currently as a factor in the regulation of these industries by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
Since Gov. Kate Brown’s Cleaner Air Oregon rulemaking process started recently, DEQ has applied human-health regulation only to new industries coming to Oregon. Regulation of existing Portland-area industry has been limited so far to four of the most dangerous factories — all too far away to affect Concordia.
According to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), which measured industrial truck 24-hour counts in Concordia, industrial truck activity throughout the neighborhood is very low. Samples taken on Lombard in 2018 found just 17 or 18 trips per day. The exception is on Columbia Boulevard, which was much higher — 380 industrial truck trips per day.
Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), however, sampled at 52nd Avenue and Columbia in July 2017 and recorded 2,549 truck trips in a day. That’s the second highest industrial truck count taken in over a decade of Portland-area samples taken by both agencies. Industrial trucks are all diesel-fueled. California reported that diesel particulate causes 70% of cancer risk from all airborne carcinogens combined, and the state banned unfiltered diesel trucks.
A Portland Clean Air analysis of ODOT and Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle Services records found 75% of Portland area trucks are still unfiltered. Diesel particulate is unusually tiny – so small that airborne particles enter the bloodstream easily from the lungs and are transported to every organ, including the brain.
Heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) attach readily to the surface of these particles and are absorbed throughout our bodies to cause dozens of short-term and long-term symptoms.
When airborne diesel particulate concentrations are extremely high, this results in black or gray dust on doors and windows. Find more information at PortlandCleanAir.org.
Seventeen industries with relatively small quantities of industrial emissions comprise the industrial area to the north of Concordia. DEQ considers all but three of them small enough to not even need a permit. Three have lower-level air pollution permits.
If you smell industrial solvents, it could be them – or a leaking residential oil tank, tar from a roofing job or some other source.
We are working with the Concordia Neighborhood Association to monitor diesel particulate and VOC emissions using bike-mounted devices that take readings every two seconds. These require twohour-long bike rides to reach each street in the area.
The data are collected and made into a color-coded geographic information system map showing airborne concentrations of VOCs and airborne particulate one micron and smaller in diameter.
Volunteer bike riders are needed for this research. Please email Greg@PortlandCleanAir.org to volunteer for a ride – or if you have any questions about your exposure and/or what can be done about it.
Greg Bourger and Portland Clean Air works with 76 Portland neighborhood associations, churches and other local groups to assist stakeholder negotiations with the most dangerous unfiltered industrial smokestacks and diesel trucks.