Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen has ordered county officials to study the health impacts that coal exports could have on area residents.
The county health department is expected to deliver its report next month.
Cogen says he wants answers to basic questions.
He explained, “How much coal dust will be released into our neighborhoods? How dangerous is this coal dust. How dangerous are the toxic heavy metals contained in this coal dust? How risky is the significant new diesel particulate pollution in our community?”
Coal export advocates say the health risks of more coal trains would be minimal.
Multnomah Health Department director, Dr. Lillian Shirley, says her staff is already gathering data on diesel emissions and coal dust. They also will identify the community’s most vulnerable people, including those with asthma and those who live near the train routes.
Shirley says the work will be done with existing staff and will not require additional funding. Cogen says he is encouraging the Oregon Health Authority to conduct similar health risk studies for other communities along the proposed coal routes.