Bullseye Glass has announced a $6.5 million settlement with plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the Southeast Portland glass manufacturer, which was accused of emitting unhealthy levels of toxic heavy metals into the air.
Several people sued Bullseye in 2016 after raising concerns about the health of people living near the glass-making facility.
The settlement ends the lawsuit.
Attorney fees and costs like expert witnesses will take up $2 million from the settlement. Another $1 million will pay for air quality testing.
The rest will be divvied up among residents for things like air purifiers and soil testing.
Bullseye’s continued operations undercut any sense of victory for plaintiff Christian Miner, who lives a few blocks from the manufacturer.
“The people of Southeast Portland are losing today. Bullseye is gonna be open for business tomorrow,” he said. “The people of Portland, especially those closest, are going to walk away with $600 or whatever it is.”
Daniel Mensher, an attorney for the plantiffs, was more upbeat.
“I’m confident because this is a pretty great settlement agreement,” he said. “Plaintiffs didn’t get everything they wanted, but that’s part of the settlement process.”
Roughly 2,100 households are involved in the suit, Mensher said. They have until April 6 to file claims.
In a statement, Bullseye Glass said it had “mixed feelings” about settling.
“However, once the insurance carriers provided the settlement funds, we worked hard to include meaningful settlement terms that would give our neighbors the peace of mind that Bullseye did not harm their property,” the statement reads.
Toxic airborne metals were revealed by environmental testing conducted by the U.S. Forest Service at the time. State regulators said Bullseye was operating legally, prompting regulators to reconsider air quality regulations.
The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission unanimously approved new rules in November that put a limit on the total health risk an Oregon polluter can impose on the people who live and work near their facilities. Regulators sought to close a gap in air toxics regulation that they say contributed to pollution at Bullseye.
Toxic metals emitted from Bullseye prompted Gov. Kate Brown to launch the Cleaner Air Oregon program in 2016. Regulators said Oregon’s existing air pollution regulations were only based on federal rules that failed to consider risks to the health of locals living near pollution centers.
Miner, one of the plaintiffs, said government officials’ response was lacking — forcing him and neighbors to take on Bullseye Glass in court.
“What I saw was really just a total lack of leadership present by any elected official and they were just pointing the finger,” he said.
Bullseye Glass says it plans to continue making glass in Portland for years to come.
OPB’s Tony Schick contributed to this report.