Intel Corporation has revealed that for decades it has been releasing fluoride air pollution from its Oregon manufacturing plants without reporting it to the state.
Intel releases fluoride in the process of making silicone wafers for computer chips at two facilities in Hillsboro and Aloha. But until recently neither the company nor the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality were tracking how much.
“Neither Intel nor DEQ realized they had emissions of fluoride at the levels that they do,” said George Davis, an environmental engineer with Oregon DEQ. “It appears to be simply an oversight on their part and perhaps as well on our part.”
The releases were revealed through a new air pollution permitting process that regulates greenhouse gas emissions.
Davis said Intel is planning to expand its Oregon manufacturing facilities and now expects to emit up to 6.4 tons of fluorides per year.
He said Intel won’t be charged a penalty, and that the company’s emissions are within legal limits.
Intel did not return calls for comment, but a DEQ report says the company believed its fluoride emissions were “insignificant” until it started the more rigorous Title V air pollution permitting process.
“Intel became aware that their fluoride emissions were not insignificant during preparation of the application for this Title V permit,” the report says.
The report says Intel estimates it has been emitting .5 tons per year of fluorides since 1978, and its expansion would increase those emissions.
Davis said there aren’t any set limits on air emissions of fluorides, but the DEQ could use its judgment to require additional controls if needed.
UPDATE: Sept. 16, 2013. Intel sent an email on Friday after this story posted to the web. The message was a response to a reporter’s inquiry prior to the story’s publication, seeking comment for the article. Intel’s Northwest Communications Manager Chelsea Hossaini wrote in the email that while preparing a new permit application for its greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, the company realized it was required to report its fluoride emissions but had not done so.