Bullseye Glass has announced it plans to resume using cadmium in its glassmaking operation now that the company has installed a pollution control device to reduce harmful emissions.
The company voluntarily suspended its use of cadmium and arsenic in February after a U.S. Forest Service study and follow-up air testing revealed heavy metal hot spots near the Southeast Portland facility. In March, Bullseye announced plans to install a pollution control device.
Last week, the company sent a letter to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality notifying the agency that the pollution filtration equipment was installed and in use. The agency shared the company’s letter in a Tweet Monday night.
“We will be resuming the usage of raw materials containing cadmium in the controlled furnace,” company controller Eric Durrin wrote.
DEQ spokeswoman Jennifer Flynt said her agency has inspected the device.
In a news release Tuesday, Bullseye said the installation of the pollution device, called a baghouse, was “a first step in updating our equipment” in response to air monitoring results.
“Now that the filtration system (the baghouse) is installed, Bullseye is able to use raw materials containing cadmium to make glass again, in limited quantities in the controlled furnace,” the company said Tuesday. “This is good news for our neighbors who wanted Bullseye to install filtration systems, for artists both local and international, whose work depends on having red, orange and yellow compatible glass, and for our 150 employees, whose work also depends on these colors.”
The company says it plans to add more emission control systems in the future that will cover all of its furnaces.
Jessica Applegate, who lives near Bullseye, said she’s upset the company and DEQ didn’t do a better job informing people of their plans to resume cadmium use. Exposure to cadmium can cause kidney disease, lung and prostate cancers, health risks officials shared after air testing last year found cadmium levels near the Bullseye Glass facility were around 50 times the state’s health benchmark.
“It’s very frustrating,” Applegate said. “We want to be reasonable, but we also want to know that we’re safe. Frankly, the public trust in DEQ has been eroded, and without transparency or third-party vetting of their filtration it’s very difficult to trust at this point.”
Applegate said she had expected the company to wait for DEQ to implement a set of temporary rules for glassmakers before resuming cadmium use. The rules would require companies that make more than 10 tons of colored glass a year to add pollution controls on furnaces that handle arsenic, cadmium, chromium or nickel, to report their use of certain metals and test their emissions. The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission is scheduled to vote on the rules later this month.
In a news release Tuesday evening, DEQ, the Oregon Health Authority and Multnomah County Health acknowledged that the installation of a pollution control device is “consistent with the direction of DEQ’s temporary rules and the agreement DEQ has been pursuing with Bullseye to control emissions of heavy metals from its furnaces. This agreement has not yet been signed.”
The agencies said Bullseye has proposed a plan to perform testing on its emission stacks April 26-28, and that DEQ will oversee the testing and share the results with the public. They also said the state will maintain four air monitors near the Bullseye Glass site in Southeast Portland, “and the agencies are watching readings closely.”