Portland's Toxic Air Problem

Air Testing Shows Elevated Nickel, Chromium And Arsenic Near Precision Castparts

By Cassandra Profita (OPB)
Portland, Oregon May 20, 2016 9:15 p.m.

Air testing found elevated levels of nickel, hexavalent chromium and arsenic near the Southeast Portland manufacturing company Precision Castparts between March 30 and May 4.


The levels were above the state's health-based goals for air quality but below what would cause acute health risks for people nearby. Officials say there is no immediate public health threat from exposure to heavy metal air pollution in the area.

Arsenic levels were found to be more than four times above the state's health-based goal for air quality, although it was within expected levels for an urban environment. Nickel levels were around twice the state's health benchmark while hexavalent chromium was just above the target.

"We note that the arsenic concentration falls within the urban background level which is consistent with the fact that PCC Structurals does not use arsenic in its metal alloys," said the company in a statement.

Short-term health effects wouldn’t be expected until the levels were more than 30 times what was detected.

The news comes as officials announce toxic levels of lead were detected at a different air p0llution monitor near the Bullseye Glass facility in Southeast Portland. Officials have confirmed the lead pollution came from Bullseye Glass.

Precision Castparts has reported installing additional pollution control devices, including four new HEPA filters and one baghouse control device, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Precision Castparts said it will discuss the hexavalent chromium and nickel concentrations at a meeting on May 25.

The state has three air pollution monitors running 24 hours a day near the company's Portland facility. The data from two additional monitors will be available in mid-June. The DEQ is also planning on collecting soil samples from the area in the coming weeks.

Keith Johnson, air quality manager for Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, said the extra levels of hexavalent chromium levels detected are "fairly minor" and arsenic pollution can also come from traffic or wood stoves.

Nickel, on the other hand, is something regulators would expect to see coming from Precision Castparts.

"While it does exceed our benchmark by about one and half times, the company has installed additional filtration," Johnson said. "So it's our hope that those numbers will actually come down as time goes on."