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News Releases from Region 10

EPA releases results from short term air tests at Hayden Island and Jantzen Beach in North Portland, OR

Testing shows no poisonous or life-threatening levels of pollutants. Most days had no elevated pollution levels of concern. Intermittent elevated short term levels of pollutants detected are not an immediate health concern.

Contact Information: 
Suzanne Skadowski (skadowski.suzanne@epa.gov )

In September 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began assisting the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in the state’s ongoing investigation of air quality concerns near Hayden Island and Jantzen Beach in north Portland, Oregon.  The state’s air quality investigation was in response to chemical odor and health complaints to state and local agencies from some communities and businesses along the Columbia River.

In support of ODEQ, EPA conducted limited short term air testing in the area from September 2015 through January 2016. The results are included in a report available at: www.epa.gov/or/jantzen-beach-air-testing. ODEQ and EPA, along with the Oregon Health Authority, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, will talk about the air tests and discuss next steps with community members at an evening meeting on May 9 at the Red Lion Inn at Jantzen Beach. More information about the community meeting is available at: http://www.deq.state.or.us/nwr/northportland.htm.

The tests showed no elevated pollution levels of concern on most of the 60 days of continuous air testing. On several days over the two months, tests detected intermittent elevated levels of air pollutants including odorous gases hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and chlorine in addition to volatile organic compounds including benzene, chloroform, 1,4-dioxane, and naphthalene. Based on analysis of the test results, in consultation with toxicologists from EPA and ATSDR, the intermittent elevated pollutant levels could cause short term transient health effects, such as headaches and shortness of breath, and very unpleasant odors. These are consistent with the complaints from local residents.

The pollution levels measured were not poisonous or life threatening and are generally consistent with levels found in an urban environment. However, people with asthma or other respiratory conditions could experience increased frequency of symptoms at these levels. These tests provide a snapshot in time and could help inform future monitoring and data collection efforts by state and local agencies to determine possible sources.

The range of pollutants detected during the short term air testing could come from a number of different nearby sources including two oil re-recycling companies, Oil Re-refining Company (ORRCO) and American Petroleum Environmental Services (APES), the city sewer system, rail-to-truck fuel and chemical offloading and storage facilities, and other area industries, as well as transportation sources including car, truck and boat engines.

ODEQ and EPA are requiring ORRCO and APES to perform air quality and odor monitoring and to report on their operations, processes and emissions. Currently, both of these facilities are in the process of renewing their state air permits.  ODEQ and EPA have inspected both facilities to evaluate their compliance with federal and state air emissions rules and are evaluating options to better control emissions from these facilities.

Hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, chlorine and volatile organic compounds are often found near facilities such as oil refineries, sewer systems, paper mills, and landfills. Hydrogen sulfide is an odorous gas with a strong smell like rotten eggs, and though harmless in small amounts, in large quantities can be harmful or even fatal.

For more information about the community meeting, ODEQ’s nuisance odor investigation in North Portland, or to file an air quality complaint, please visit: http://www.deq.state.or.us/nwr/northportland.htm.

To learn more about the health effects of hydrogen sulfide and other pollutants identified in the air monitoring study, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/iris.

To read EPA’s air testing report, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/or/jantzen-beach-air-testing-documents