Mike Jordan wrote:I'm just speculating, but I wonder if the elevated levels of arsenic and cadmium in the air that was detected and started all of this was related to the Feb winter sale that Bullseye has each year. I would suspect that since they sell so much glass during this that they had been producing more to get ready for it. I know when I use to go several times during the sale that they were moving a lot of glass and the shelves were pretty bare afterwards sometimes. Plus they have opened a couple of new resource centers that they have to stock. I wonder if all of this required them to produce a lot more glass which put a lot more of the chemicals into the air, which allowed the air sensors in the area to pick it up, triggering the investigation.
I guess it was only a matter of time, but it's reported that lawyers are starting to get involved (they are probably going house to house offering to help sue Bullseye), which means this could go on long after the actual contamination is resolved and will put more pressure on Bullseye. It's a real shame it couldn't have been detected when it was a lesser amount and Bullseye was given a chance to get it cleaned up before it hit the news stations.
Yep, you're just speculating, Mike. The monitoring was in October; the sale was last week. Let's not get a whole lot of carts ahead of the horses here: The stories in the Mercury are badly researched and not particularly well-written, and in some cases just flat-out incorrect. There are definitely issues, but for the most part we're dealing with a lot of families who've been told their children are being poisoned long before there's any evidence that there is danger of long-term health impacts.
I don't blame them for being terrified, and angry. I would be, too. But I *do* blame my tribe (journalists) for caring more about selling a story than actually getting the story right.
I've been following the story: The US Forest Service detected elevated levels of arsenic and cadmium in moss in multiple "hotspots" around the greater metro Portland area. They notified the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), who basically sat on it until prodded multiple times. At that point, DEQ installed 24-hour sampling monitors in the parking lot across from Bullseye, and left them there for a month last October.
The monitors picked up a lot of data, which we have been told showed levels of arsenic and cadmium that exceeded the minimum safety levels for Portland. DEQ finally notified other agencies in late January that there were problems and apparently also notified the press, which interviewed Bullseye management and set off a firestorm.
DEQ distilled the data into a public report: http://www.deq.state.or.us/nwr/docs/PowellSE22nddata.pdf
The report also shows high levels of chromium on some days, although the average levels are not above what's considered safe, apparently. (DEQ page on this is at http://www.deq.state.or.us/nwr/metalsemissions.htm
Bullseye issued a press release announcing that it was suspending production of arsenic and cadmium glasses, and later also suspended chromium glasses. Uroboros, which has also had high readings, followed suit. Uro issued a release in which it says it doesn't produce glasses with arsenic, and that in a previous suspected contamination incident the contamination days were found not to match up with factory production. http://www.deq.state.or.us/nwr/docs/metalsem/FSTubmanEPAmonitoring.pdf
There are three other glass manufacturers in this area (boro), but no one I know has identified issues with them.
Ironically, Portland has some serious pollution issues without worrying about glass factories. There's a tendency for Portlanders to assume that, because they're so hung up on ecovegetarianwhateverism, they live in a pristine environment. In fact, we've got some pretty nasty superfund sites, one of the most polluted waterways in the US, an air quality level last summer that was actually worse than Beijing, some real heavy-hitter polluters (as far as the EPA is concerned), and we live next door to one of the most efficient heavy metals emitters known, i.e., volcanoes. There are, for example, some rather gooey plumes out in Hillsboro that are probably due to the semiconductor industries, and you can pretty much count on drycleaners messing up the air quality.
Here is an important point, though: The levels that were exceeded at Bullseye and Uroboros were basically indicator or alarm levels, i.e., they were alerts that there is a problem, not that there is proven harm. (at least according to DEQ so far). Those levels are set far below the danger levels, for the really good reason that if the first time you get an alert there's already harm being done, you're too late. If you're interested in this stuff, there's a guy named Duncan Parks who has some extremely good analysis of the data to date: http://wantonempiricist.blogspot.com/
Nor have there been any identified cancer clusters (which was the real fear), or other proven incidents of illness. There are elevated levels of soil contamination, but not overly elevated, and since volcanoes emit some copious quantities of chromium, arsenic, cadmium, sulfur dioxide, etc., it can be difficult to tell (especially given Mt. St Helens erupting all over the landscape).
Bullseye (and I believe also Uro, but don't quote me) were heavily criticized for not adequately filtering smokestacks. The argument there is that there is no regulation requiring such filtering. Much larger manufacturing facilities are required to use that kind of filtration, but small companies have relatively little output compared to the big guys, so the gain in pollution control is considered not worth the expense. The DEQ/EPA/OSHA and everyone else who's commented has said they are in full compliance with other safety/filtering compliance. The community overwhelmingly feels that is not enough, they should be made to comply at the same level as larger companies.
So Bullseye is working with a company, Sarbaco, to implement that filtration, but such things take time to implement, and in the meantime they are not producing a significant part of their inventory. Neither is Uroboros. I've no insight into either business but I can't think that's a very profitable scenario, or that it can go on very long.
Most of the surrounding community also feels (at least if you read Facebook or go to the meetings) that Bullseye should not use ANY toxic chemicals that might produce unhealthy emissions until the filtration is in place. I'm not sure there IS a glass made that couldn't potentially have a "toxic" chemical--someone more experienced than I should speak to that--so I suppose there might be a chance that other glasses would stop production, too. I have not heard anything that would indicate that, but it's certainly part of the public demand.
What worries me--aside from the obvious issues with losing our premiere glass manufacturers--is that there's a very real danger that the state and local agencies will decide it's a lot easier to kill the relatively small glass business in Portland, announce that they've "solved" the pollution problem, and let the real polluters go back to business as usual. In fact, if I were a corporate strategist with three or four companies I could name, I would be pushing very, very hard in that direction.