The Oregon Health Authority is pushing back release of a public health assessment on airborne hazards in the vicinity of the southeast Portland production headquarters of Bullseye Glass.
The assessment, scheduled for release this month, was delayed as the company’s attorneys prepared to file a $30 million lawsuit against Oregon.
A Dec. 8 letter from the Oregon Health Authority to community partners notified them that the key health report, promised for early- to mid-December, would be pushed back for a “significant extension” until sometime in 2018.
OHA, working with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, has spent more than a year gathering air, soil and water data to monitor health risk in the area near Bullseye’s southeast Portland headquarters.
One of those data sets included air samples from October 2015, as part of a study by the Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Forest Service. The study’s goal was to determine whether moss can tell scientists more about toxins in the air. It was that same study that set off alarm bells about heavy metals near Bullseye and other industrial companies in Portland.
After obtaining draft versions of the health assessment via a public records request, Bullseye’s attorneys are planning to challenge the draft. OHA has since promised to review the data because of a potential error.
Oregon DEQ spokeswoman Laura Gleim said the standard procedure is to compare the filters holding field samples with blank filters carrying no sample material. If the metal amounts are similar, the samples may not be enough to show a correlation.
That comparison wasn’t done for the October 2015 samples.
In this case, two of the eighteen filters showed significantly more chromium than the blank filters. Still, Gleim said, DEQ is confident the samples related to Bullseye are accurate.
Bullseye Vice President Jim Jones said there was no relationship between the timing of the company’s queries to OHA and the federal court filing.
“Data was used by government agencies in a rush to judgement based on faulty science,” Jones said.
OHA’s letter indicated that only chromium pollution data collected in October 2015 is under scrutiny, it also warns the draft health report in circulation “should not be relied on for any purpose.”
The state will now take on a review of whether the data should remain in the report. That means Portlanders who live in the area and are anxious to see the full report will have to wait a bit more.
OHA said it hopes to publish the full health assessment sometime next year.