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Portland, Oregon, Air Toxics Solutions

(See endnote 32)

Even though air pollution in the Portland area has decreased substantially in the last 30 years, there is still a serious concern about air toxics. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality working with the city and surrounding areas set up the Portland Air Toxics Solutions project. The advisory committee to the project composed of diverse stakeholders reviewed a technical study and recommended a framework for an air toxics reduction plan. The study was conducted in a scientific manner by technical environmental personnel and it estimated the air toxics concentrations for 19 different pollutants from hundreds of emission sources including industrial, mobile, and residential. Fourteen of the 19 were above the clean air health goals and eight of them caused the greatest risk to people. These were 1,3 butadiene, benzene, diesel particulates, PAHs, naphthalene, cadmium, acrolein, and formaldehyde.

The air toxics were found throughout the Portland region and were especially high in highly populated areas, near busy roads in areas where there was substantial business and industrial activity. A disproportionate amount of lower income minorities lived in these areas, and therefore it was also an environmental justice problem.

The Department of Environmental Quality and its advisory identified five specific emission categories for follow-up action as follows:

  • 1. Residential wood burning
  • 2. Cars and trucks
  • 3. Heavy-duty vehicles such as buses and semitrailers
  • 4. Construction equipment
  • 5. Industrial metals facilities

Although only 2% of the homes in the area were heated by wood, many people either use wood stoves and fireplaces as an additional heat source or for aesthetic purposes. The old uncertified wood stoves in the typical fireplaces contributed most of the bulk of the toxic pollutants from residential wood burning. They also emitted fine particulate matter. The solution to the problem was to:

  • • Conduct a wood-burning survey to determine the numbers of units involved and the condition of the units.
  • • Provide an educational campaign to teach people how to use better burning techniques and improve their burning facilities.
  • • Provide financial assistance to low-income people to change their equipment to certified wood stoves.
  • • Find long-term funding to help citizens with the purchase of new wood stoves.
  • • Evaluate the effectiveness of ongoing programs used to improve wood-burning devices.

Light-duty cars and trucks typically use gasoline as the fuel source which produces air toxics and greenhouse gases. To reduce the air toxics from this source, the following recommendations were made:

  • • Reduce vehicle use by altering modes of transportation or car sharing.
  • • Improve traffic signals to keep traffic moving instead of stalled.
  • • Promote the use of electric vehicles by providing charging stations.
  • • Improve vehicle performance and reduce gasoline usage.

Heavy-duty vehicles are used throughout the Portland area, especially for deliveries and interstate freight. Most of these vehicles use diesel fuel. The recommendations to decrease pollution from these vehicles were:

  • • Accelerate the use of cleaner diesel fuel and retrofit existing engines.
  • • Use the most effective means of education and outreach to the public and companies to get them to make changes in the diesel operation of heavy vehicles.
  • • Determine if public funding should be used for clean diesel fleets such as in school buses and in public transportation.

Construction equipment usually has diesel engines. Construction equipment is used throughout the area. Because of the low turnover of equipment, these engines may pose the most risk of emitting particulate matter and PAHs. In order to decrease pollution from this source:

  • • Conduct surveys to determine the amount of use of construction equipment as well as the age of the equipment.
  • • Accelerate the time used to retrofit the equipment with better and cleaner engines.
  • • Use alternative fuels where possible.
  • • Reduce idling time for construction equipment.

Industrial metals facilities contribute most of the cadmium, manganese, and nickel which are above the recommended benchmarks in the Portland area. These pollutants are usually found close to the industrial facilities.

To control these pollutants, make sure that all the industries comply with the permitting programs and all federal and state air toxics emissions limits.

For the present and future, the Department of Environmental Quality is working with local government and other partners to use air toxic considerations in the planning process for new transportation and for land use.

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