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pollution

Day becomes night when industrial smog is heavy in North Birmingham, Alabama, as on this day in July of 1972. Sitting adjacent to the U.S. Pipe plant, this is the most heavily polluted area of the city.
LeRoy Woodson for the EPA via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/545397

The Trump administration has proposed cutting the EPA's budget by 30 percent. What does that mean for polluted communities in the U.S.? 


Recent University of Washington oceanography graduate, Frances Eshom-Arzadon, collecting samples for microplastics study.
Courtesy of Frances Eshom-Arzadon

If you put any fleeces in the wash lately, there’s a chance small pieces of plastic fibers from the clothing could be sitting on the sands of a Puget Sound beach.

A recent University of Washington graduate conducted a local study on microplastics. They’re teeny, tiny pieces of plastic that can be smaller than a grain of rice. 

The United States is stepping away from the Paris Climate Agreement, but the consequences of climate change will be more difficult to leave behind. Take ocean acidification, a major emerging threat to West Coast fisheries.

Researchers at Oregon State University have recorded some of the highest levels of ocean acidification in the world – and they exist right off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

A thorn in cross-border relations between the northwestern U.S. and Canada is going away. And therefore so too is one of the best protest mascots in recent history.

For more than a decade, a character named Mr. Floatie—a piece of poo wearing a sailor's cap—nagged greater Victoria's politicians and citizens in falsetto voice to stop dumping the capital region's raw sewage in shared border waters.

Boardman is best known to thousands of people for its roadside attraction: a sprawling tree farm along Interstate 84. Acres of poplar trees sprouted in orderly rows along the highway running through Eastern Oregon.

Now, most of those plantation trees have been cut down, the land sold. Part of it will soon become Oregon’s second-largest dairy. Lost Valley Farms just received a key permit at the end of March. Its owners say the dairy should be up and running in a few weeks.

Gary Holland of Northeast Southwest Trucking in Portland used clean diesel grant money to replace four of his old diesel trucks with new ones, including this 2016 model.
EarthFix Photo/Cassandra Profita

The decision by Volkswagen to cheat on diesel emissions tests means Oregon and Washington are in line for a big payday.

The states plan to turn millions of dollars from the company’s settlement into cleaner air by replacing dirty old diesel engines. Some say the money presents a golden opportunity to start phasing them out altogether.

The difference between a dirty old diesel truck and a new, clean one is up to 95 percent less pollution coming out of the exhaust pipe.

Seattle's Gas Works Park About To Undergo Toxic Cleanup

Mar 20, 2017

Kite flyers, picnickers, and Ultimate players treasure Seattle’s Gas Works Park, whose famous towers and pipes were once part of a coal gasification plant on the shore of Lake Union that lit up early Seattleites’ homes.

But beneath the grass lies a more insidious legacy of the park’s industrial past: toxic waste.

Over the weekend a large diesel spill developed on the Columbia River near downtown Wenatchee, Washington. So far state officials haven’t been able to locate the source of the spill.

Bill and Cindy Wheeler have lived on Lake Sawyer for 30 years, but they don't know the weir master.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Our region’s rapid growth is straining our lakes, especially little lakes on the fringes of urban areas. When growth approaches, the communities around them aren’t always prepared to protect them from pollution. 


A Blob In The Ocean Means More Ozone In The Air

Feb 21, 2017

Remember the warm weather we had in 2014 and 2015? University of Washington professor Dan Jaffe says that was caused by a meteorological phenomenon known as "The Blob."

“The Blob was a region of really unusual warm water that was sitting off the coast of Washington and Oregon,” he explains.

That blob had a surprising effect: it increased air pollution across the West.

An environmental group filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Washington state of failing to control water pollution along the coast and Puget Sound.

Portland-based Northwest Environmental Advocates is asking a U.S. district court to force two federal agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – to cut funding to the state as a form of punishment.

People who eat fish from Washington state waters will be protected by a combination of new federal and state pollution rules.

That’s the outcome of a decision the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled Tuesday.

The announcement could end years of wrangling over how much to restrict municipal and industrial water pollution. Indian tribes have been especially critical of what they considered lax standards for how much fish can be safely consumed.

Sara Thompson from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission called the decision an important first step.

Seven environmental groups want to prove coal being hauled by rail is polluting Washington’s waterways. If they are successful, the outcome could have huge implications for the way trains are regulated going forward.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in Seattle Monday.

Gov. Kate Brown is promising “sweeping change” from the new state air pollution rule-making process now underway.

Several Portland factories are in the public eye this month as Oregon regulators take public comment on new rules for making art glass.

Their process involves some heavy metals. Untill now, those emissions have gone mostly unfiltered.

While the state Department of Environmental Quality is working out a permanent system of rules, there’s still a long list of people with unanswered questions about the art glass business and human health.

One of the names at the top of that list is Jess Beebe. She got some unwelcome news from the lab this spring.

More than a dozen organizations are calling on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to stop renewing air pollution permits until a new set of rules are in place.

The state is in the process of setting new limits on air pollution to protect human health after testing revealed numerous toxic hot spots around Portland – including unhealthy levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead near the Bullseye Glass facility.

More NW E-Waste Recyclers Found Exporting

Jun 19, 2016

Businesses in Washington state's e-waste recycling program haven't been properly recycling all of the old electronics they collect, a Seattle-based watchdog group said Monday.

The non-profit Basel Action Network found that three Pacific Northwest recyclers shipped non-working electronics to China, despite pledges to recycle them responsibly in the state. The businesses are registered as approved recyclers through Washington state's electronics takeback program.

Clean Air Advocates Converge On Oregon Senate Hearing

May 23, 2016

Hundreds of people, worried about clean air, converged on Oregon’s Legislature Monday, to speak at a senate hearing.

Last week Gov. Kate Brown issued a cease and desist order to Bullseye Glass, after air monitors identified it as a source of lead emissions.

Mary Peveto with "Neighbors For Clean Air" called it a sea-change event — for the state to use health as the basis for air emission standards.

Bullseye Glass is cutting back hours in response to a state order to limit its production. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said the company may not make glass using a list of nine metals. Bullseye said this effectively eliminates 80 percent of its product lines.

Jim Jones, Bullseye’s director of sales, said for the next three weeks, about 15 employees will be idle.

Jones said people are not being dismissed outright, but the company expects some attrition.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has cited a Portland chrome plating company for three violations of air pollution rules.

The announcement of the violations comes as officials search for the source of hexavalent chromium detected in air monitors near the Bullseye Glass facility in Southeast Portland. At elevated levels, hexavalent chromium can cause cancer. Officials are investigating a rail yard, a trucking facility and two chrome-plating facilities.

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.

Waiting quietly in the living room of a home in an upscale New Delhi neighborhood are a dozen people of all ages — maids, security guards, construction workers, all of whom earn at most a few dollars a day. The elegant, plant-filled room is hushed except for the sound of coughing.

Over in the next room, Dr. Gita Prakash is at her dining table with a stethoscope pressed to a pregnant woman's chest. Prakash has been treating indigent patients here for 30 years, six nights a week, in the evenings after she finishes her rounds at the local hospital where she works.

Portland State University, the city of Portland and Multnomah County announced plans Wednesday to spend $125,000 on a two-year study of the city’s toxic air pollution.

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.

Washington state lawmakers have flushed a proposed ban on state business travel to Victoria, British Columbia. The travel restriction surfaced last month in one version of a state budget. It was meant to pressure Victoria to stop dumping raw sewage into shared border waters.

Air testing conducted early this month near two Portland glassmakers shows no urgent health risks, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Data collected from five monitors running 24 hours a day March 1-8 show no change in levels of metals in the air from the February testing results, and short-term health risk remains low, officials announced Thursday.

Pigeons in London have a bad reputation. Some people call them flying rats. And many blame them for causing pollution with their droppings. But now the birds are being used to fight another kind of pollution in this city of 8.5 million.

"The problem for air pollution is that it's been largely ignored as an issue for a long time," says Andrea Lee, with the London-based environmental organization ClientEarth. "People don't realize how bad it is, and how it actually affects their health."

Uroboros Glass has signed an agreement with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality that prohibits the use of cadmium, chromium and nickel to protect public health until pollution controls can be installed on the company's furnaces.

Derek Bowen is standing on top of small, enclosed trailer, at the edge of a grassy park in Eugene. It’s overcast and misty but an acronym on the side of this air monitoring station is clear: LRAPA – Lane Regional Air Protection Agency.

Bowen comes down a ladder with a small cylindrical filter in hand. It's been collecting super-tiny particles from car exhaust and wood burning that get lodged in people’s lungs.

Government agencies announced Wednesday that the health risk around Portland glass manufacturers is low.

The DEQ said Wednesday that it took 67 soil samples from the area around Bullseye Glass in southeast Portland. Samples were taken from a Fred Meyer parking lot, a day care center and Powell Park.

The samples were tested for arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and several other elements.

They found that most heavy metals were at background levels. But there were a few samples that showed elevated levels.

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