An on-site inspection of the Owens-Brockway glassmaker adjacent to the hottest part of the known arsenic hotspot in Parkrose is now nine months overdue.
DEQ spokesman Keith Johnson told the Memo in an earlier interview that he believed the Owens-Brockway plant in Parkrose is subject to annual inspections, but he could not say when the last DEQ inspection of the Owens-Brockway site took place.
In a follow-up interview, Johnson said Title V permitted facilities are supposed to be inspected annually, but the Owens-Brockway Parkrose factory has not been inspected since August of 2014, when it was deemed to be in compliance. “We will try to get out to Title V locations,” Johnson said in April.
Glass bottle manufacturer Owens-Brockway in Parkrose has operated at 9710 N.E. Glass Plant Rd. since 1956, according to initial equipment installation dates cited in an Oregon DEQ online report. Owens-Brockway is a manufacturing facility that—under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA)—requires a Title V federal operating permit issued and administered by the state of Oregon.
Opacity is a percentage indicator of how much visible particulate is in air emitted from a smokestack or vent. The limit for Owens-Brockway is 20 percent, which means the emitted air was more than 20 percent visually occluded by airborne particulates at least four times in the past several years.
During an Owens-Brockway’s Title V permit review process in 2007, Northeast Portland resident Raymond Osborne Jr. filed a comment with DEQ that “the company should cease to operate if they continue to violate the air quality regulations such as the opacity violations,” according to the online report. DEQ’s response to the comment: “The Department will continue to inspect the source to ensure compliance with the permit terms and will continue to enforce the applicable rules to minimize the reoccurring opacity excursions.”
According to Johnson, there have been no opacity violations at the Parkrose facility since 2013.
Johnson told the Memo arsenic is not a raw material in Owens-Brockway’s glassmaking process, but he agreed that arsenic might be trapped in cullet (broken or crushed recycled glass). Chapter 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations at section 61.164(c)(1) (NESHAP) confirms that such trapped arsenic may be released into the air when cullet is melted at high temperature in the vented glass-melting furnaces: The regulations’ test criteria factor in the fraction by weight of elemental arsenic in cullet when calculating the theoretical uncontrolled arsenic emission from a glassmaking factory that recycles old glass containers.
This explains why arsenic nevertheless is a hazardous air pollutant (HAP) subject to regulation and permitting at the Owens-Brockway facility. The online report indicates the presence of arsenic in the Owens-Brockway air emissions; however, it is well within the permitted tonnage limits.
In April, the Memo followed up with an email to Owens-Brockway spokesperson Ryan McCarthy asking him to confirm that no arsenic is used as a raw material in Owens-Brockway’s glassmaking process. McCarthy declined to respond to this follow-up question by press time and failed to return the Memo’s voicemail, having two months ago promised but later declined to answer site-specific environmental and occupational hazard questions (“Glassmaker Stonewalls; Regulator Vouchsafes” MCM April 4, 2016).
Reminded that the online permit data does not indicate a Title V permit is in force at Owens-Brockway—as the only permit in the publicly accessible database expired January 1, 2012—Johnson said the permit was administratively renewed for a like five-year term and remains in force.
DEQ spokesperson Jennifer Flynt promised the Memo she would look into the problem of the outdated DEQ Title V permit online databases that are readily available to the public; however, by press time, she had not gotten back to us.
According to a DEQ webpage, “[a]mbient benchmarks [concentrations, or ABC] are not enforceable regulatory standards but rather ‘standard reference values’ by which air toxics problems can be identified, evaluated and addressed. Once adopted, they will allow the Department to better assess the risk to Oregon citizens, provide more certainty to stakeholders, business, and elected officials as to the goals of the program, prioritize future emission reduction strategies and measure and track progress in protecting human health and the environment from air toxics.”
It remains unclear whether the levels of arsenic actually emitted by Owens-Brockway in Parkrose are a public health risk, since airborne arsenic moss data have not yet been validated by the U.S. Forest Service, an effort that is ongoing and is expected to take at least another month.
DEQ describes its published ABC benchmark as representing the level of potentially cancer-causing toxic airborne contaminant that would cause one in a million people exposed for life to actually get cancer.
According to an October 2010 online DEQ report, Oregon’s ABC for arsenic is 0.0002 micrograms/cubic meter of air. And according to Portland Air Toxic Solutions (PATS), which published a draft white paper online in 2015, the ABC for arsenic in and around Owens-Brockway in Parkrose is estimated at approximately 1.4 times—or 40 percent higher—than the target ABC level and, according to the draft white paper, will remain so through 2017 unless additional controls are imposed on Owens-Brockway.
But these estimated Owens-Brockway airborne arsenic emissions—according to the HAP table contained in the only online Owens-Brockway DEQ report—are well below the Title V permitted levels for arsenic at the glass manufacturing plant in Parkrose.
Meanwhile, DEQ spokesperson Gerald Ebersole confirmed that DEQ has not yet visited Parkrose to conduct the overdue on-site inspection of Owens-Brockway.
The Owens-Brockway online report may be viewed at deq.state.or.us/aq/permit/tv/nwr/261876owensBrockway_rr.pdf.
PATS’ draft white paper may be viewed at deq.state.or.us/aq/planning/report/appendix/GlassManufacturingWP.pdf.
For more information, visit saferair.oregon.gov.
Glassmaker Owens-Brockway in Parkrose operates under a Title V permit, according to Oregon’s DEQ. The 1990 EPA’s Clean Air Act Amendments required that the EPA create a program to regulate air emissions. The regulatory program is called Title V, under which federal operating permits limit air emissions and require certain compliance of large stationary air emission manufacturers. State agencies such as Oregon’s DEQ typically administer Title V permits under the EPA’s federal authority. Semi-annual emissions monitoring and reporting by the permitted manufacturer, annual on-site compliance inspections by DEQ of the manufacturer and collection of annual base and excess fees for scheduled emissions are all a part of the typical Title V permit compliance process.