A roomful of local residents peppered state regulators with questions about air pollution from the Hollingsworth & Vose plant in south Corvallis during a three-hour public meeting Wednesday night that frequently turned testy.
About 75 people turned out for the event, hosted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library.
In December, DEQ revealed that the H&V glass fiber plant at 1115 S.W. Crystal Lake Drive had been operating under the wrong class of permit for nearly 20 years and had been emitting much higher levels of carbon monoxide and fluorides than its permit allowed. The agency negotiated a settlement that requires H&V to pay $240,000 in fines and fees but allows it to keep operating its Corvallis plant while it applies for higher-level permits.
DEQ permit writer Gary Andes gave a 40-minute slide presentation that covered the history of the botched permit, the process of applying for a new one and the type and amount of pollutants coming out of H&V’s smokestacks. He gave particular attention to the levels of carbon monoxide and fluorides emitted by the company and noted that computer models of the plant’s emissions showed no cause for concern from either substance.
“What I’m trying to say here is this is not a health issue,” Andes said. “Carbon monoxide and fluorides (from H&V) are not a health issue from an ambient air standards standpoint.”
Many of the people present, however, seemed unconvinced.
During a two-hour question-and- answer period, audience members vented anger at past regulatory failures, aired concerns over potential health effects on people living near the plant and voiced skepticism regarding DEQ’s ability to protect the community from harm.
Among the issues raised were these:
Why does DEQ rely on computer modeling rather than direct air quality monitoring to determine whether emissions from the glass fiber plant pose a threat to neighbors?
Does the modeling take acute short-term exposures into account as well as long-term chronic exposures?
Are heavy metals and other toxins from the H&V stacks settling to the ground and poisoning the soil?
What is the agency doing to check up on self-monitoring emissions reports filed by the company, and why don’t regulators do their own emissions testing?
What specific fluoride compounds are in the emissions?
A panel of DEQ and Oregon Health Authority officials tried to answer the questions and promised to provide more information when they didn’t know the answers. And they did their best to reassure the audience that all their concerns would be taken into account.
“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t care,” said Karen White-Fallon, a natural resource specialist for DEQ. “I live in this airshed.”
Still, the level of mistrust of both DEQ and H&V was high.
One man brought up a 2014 incident in which glass fibers from the company’s wastewater treatment facility may have entered the Willamette River. DEQ found no violation in that case, but the company agreed to clean up the facility after an environmental group threatened to sue.
“This permit should not be issued because Hollingsworth & Vose has no credibility with this community,” he said, showing a large aerial photo of the accumulated glass fiber. “Why was no fine levied for this? Not even a ticket was issued.”
The public will have at least two more opportunities to give oral testimony and submit written comments on air emissions levels at Hollingsworth & Vose. The first will come when DEQ issues a draft PSD permit, which is the one H&V is currently seeking (the acronym stands for prevention of significant deterioration). That will trigger a 35-day comment period and a public hearing.
Once the PSD permit is issued, H&V will have 180 days to apply for a Title V permit, the standard air emissions authority for large-scale industrial operations. There will be a similar comment period after the draft Title V permit is issued.
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Notes from FAN:
— This is the second incident in Oregon where an industry did not report its fluoride emissions. The first issue was Intel in Hillsboro, Oregon, which emitted fluoride from its large manufacturing site since 1978 but never informed the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) nor did the DEQ consider to ask -even though software manufacturing is a major source of fluorine entering the environment. See news report in The Oregonian, Intel has been emitting fluoride for years without state knowledge, permit, Sept 13, 2013.
— See chemicals from EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory reported by Hollingsworth & Vose from 1988 to 2009.
- January 2016. Fluoride Air Dispersion Modeling Report. Hollingsworth & Vose Fiber Company, by Golder Associates Inc. A description of “the modeling methodology and input data that was used to conduct ambient air modeling of HF and F for comparison to accepted risk -based chronic exposure thresholds at nearby residential locations (i.e. at locations where long term exposure could occur).”
- 2016. Report from H&V’s facility in Georgia: Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Application. Hollingsworth & Vose Company, Hyalus, Inc. Facility. By Golder Associates Inc. “The Fluorides emission rate is a controlled emission rate based on 98% or better control of filterable fluoride particles. The facility is requesting a federally enforceable limit of 2.9 tons/year. Therefore, PSD permitting will not be applicable to Fluorides emissions (Table 2-2, page 11).”
- 2016. State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Hollingsworth & Vose Fiber Company: Air Quality Questions and Answers.