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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
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Portland Glass Factory Called Toxic Menace

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - High levels of airborne arsenic, cadmium and chromium in Southeast Portland spurred residents to file a class action accusing a glassmaking company of poisoning the residential neighborhood.

Bullseye Glass Co. has made Southeast Portland a hot spot of toxic chemicals, lead plaintiff Alyssa Isenstein Krueger says in the March 3 complaint in Multnomah County Court.

Since Bullseye opened its factory in 1974, Krueger says, "the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality ('DEQ') measured arsenic in Southeast Portland at over 159 times state-established safety levels, and cadmium at 49 times safety levels. Bullseye knew or should have known that it is and has been emitting significant amounts of toxic materials."

As proof, Krueger says, "Bullseye privately lobbied the United States Environmental Protection Agency to create an exemption in Clean Air Act regulations so that it would not need to treat or filter the emissions from its smokestacks. As a result, Bullseye has contaminated homes, businesses, and families."

Cadmium exposure can cause kidney damage, arsenic is used as rat poison, and hexavalent chromium is carcinogenic.

To trace the pollutants, the U.S. Forest Service began collecting moss samples throughout Portland in 2012, because moss lacks roots, so it absorbs and stores its nutrients and water from the air. The study produced maps that showed "that there was something terribly wrong taking place in Southeast Portland," Krueger says in the complaint.

"Those maps show dangerously high levels of cadmium and other heavy metals in the air, with a proverbial 'bullseye' at the center. That bullseye, in fact, centers on defendant Bullseye's glass production facility in Southeast Portland."

Krueger and three other family-plaintiffs claim that since 1974, "Bullseye has been using the neighborhood's air and backyards as a dumping ground for the arsenic, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and other toxins it sends up its smokestacks. Notwithstanding the fact that Bullseye uses thousands of pounds each year of these toxic heavy metals in its glass furnaces, it has decided not to install any pollution control technology to capture these pollutants; it freely sends waste from its furnaces into the air of Southeast Portland. Once Bullseye emits this toxic pollution, children inhale it, it lands on skin, in yards, and on playgrounds. It is taken up by the vegetables in backyard gardens, and it comes into homes on the soles of people's feet, on pets' fur, and by other routes. Once inside homes and bodies, these toxins create profound health risks for people, particularly children and those with medical sensitivities."

The families seek class certification, an injunction ordering Bullseye to stop using arsenic, cadmium and chromium in its glassmaking unless and until it installs adequate emission controls, and to remove "all particulate matter" from their properties, and medical monitoring for everyone who lives within a mile and a half of the factory.

Each plaintiff family has at least one child.

Alyssa and Robert Krueger, who live less than a mile from the factory, say the emissions have made them hold off on planting their spring vegetable garden.

"The Kruegers worry about the effects on their family from eating the produce and eggs produced on their land for years, and they do not know if they will ever be able to raise chickens or grow produce there again without a costly remediation of the soil," they say in the complaint.

They are represented by Daniel Mensher with Keller Rohrback in Seattle, and Karl Anuta in Portland.

State officials say another Portland glass company, Uroboros Glass Studio, emitted cadmium from its facilities.

Both Bullseye and Uroboros agreed last month to stop using arsenic, hexavalent chromium and cadmium, according to a release by the state's Department of Environmental Quality.

Bullseye did not respond to a request for comment.

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