Oregon Forestry Agency Suppresses Science

The above photo is what legal stream protection in Oregon looks like. This photo was taken at an oxbow clearcut site in the Oregon Coast Range.

 

It is all of our duty to hold our elected leaders accountable for actions that put the health of our communities at risk. Beyond Toxics has been working for 4 years to bring sound scientific reporting and analysis of forestry pesticide applications into the decision-making processes at our state capitol.

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) did an investigative report and found that the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) suppressed a scientific water quality assessment by the Department of Environmental Quality. Read the full OPB report

In Oregon, surface water, drinking water, and human health is poorly protected, or not protected at all, especially compared to the regulations and policies in place in our neighboring states of Washington and Idaho. This is why it’s so important to review and consider scientific data and facts when making decisions about the impacts of industrial forestry practices on Oregon’s drinking water and salmon streams. Read the Oregon’s Industrial Forests and Herbicide Use report to learn how The Oregon Forest Practices Act prevents the public from knowing about pesticide use and potential threats to human and wildlife health.

This is but one way Oregon’s timber industry bullies government agencies into disregarding environmental health and safety for Oregonians in favor of driving timber profits higher. Coastal towns have struggled with contaminated drinking water for years after herbicide sprays and increasing amounts of sediment in streams from the landslides that result from clear-cutting on steep slopes. See the video Timber’s Cover-Up to learn more about how forest ecosystems are interrupted and destroyed by conventional industrial forestry.

The following letters were sent to The Board of Forestry and Governor Brown in response to the issue of the Department of Environmental Quality & Oregon Department of Forestry ignoring an important scientific report on public resources and drinking water in the Oregon Coast.

*Please consider writing your own letter voicing your concerns to Governor Brown and also the Board of Forestry.*

 


Oregon Board of Forestry
2600 State Street
Salem, OR 97310

Dear Members of the Board of Forestry,

On behalf of our 50,000 members from all across Oregon, the eight undersigned organizations write to you today with serious concerns over recent revelations that the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) suppressed an important scientific report aimed at protecting human health and clean drinking water on the Oregon Coast.

On January 6, Oregon Public Broadcasting featured an investigative report which described how lobbyists from the logging industry and staff with the Oregon Department of Forestry, specifically State Forester Peter Daugherty, pressured the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to suppress a scientific report on the risks that industrial clearcut logging practices may pose to clean drinking water in Oregon’s coastal communities.

Many aspects of this investigative report are troubling, not the least of which is State Forester Peter Daugherty’s denial of long-settled science regarding clearcutting, steep slopes, and sediment washing into streams that supply drinking water. Mr. Daugherty’s comments in the OPB story and in the public records the story references demonstrate efforts to suppress concerns about landslide risks from clearcutting, despite the fact that DEQ specifically included scientific references to landslide risks in its study.

We urge this board to take action to ensure that ODF, and the State Forester refrain from such behavior in the future, and take the following steps:

  • Have Mr. Daugherty explain himself in a public meeting, and then consider disciplinary action using available Administrative Guidelines.
  • Develop guidelines and policies that provide greater oversight in the area of drinking water protection.
  • Provide complete and unbiased support to DEQ to complete and release the 2015 drinking water report.
  • Ensure ODF respects the mission and work product of other state agencies and science related to forest practices, water quality and ecosystem impacts.

The people of Oregon must be able to trust that regulatory bodies tasked with protecting clean drinking water and human health in this state are working in the public interest, and not at the whim of corporate lobbyists. Please act quickly to address the grave concerns many have voiced over the behavior of this Board and ODF, and take meaningful steps to regain the trust and faith of the many Oregonians who depend on Oregon’s forests for our drinking water.

Sincerely,

Oregon Wild
Portland Audubon Society
Cascadia Wildlands
Beyond Toxics
Oregon Coast Alliance
Coast Range Association
Umpqua Watersheds
Citizens of Rockaway Beach for Watershed Protection
Native Fish Society
WildEarth Guardians
Center for Biological Diversity


 

The Honorable Governor Kate Brown
State Capitol Building
900 Court Street NE, #160
Salem, Oregon 97301

Dear Governor Brown:

On behalf of our 50,000 members from all across Oregon, the eight undersigned organizations write to
you today with grave concerns over recent revelations that an important scientific report by the
Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) aimed at protecting human health and clean drinking water on the Oregon Coast was suppressed through political and agency pressure. We urge you to instruct DEQ to complete and release the 2015 drinking water report, direct your staff to develop and implement policy changes needed to address the issues the report identifies, and appoint a member to the Oregon Board of Forestry who is qualified to bring an understanding of hydrology and water quality to ODF that is currently lacking.

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) featured a story on January 6 from reporter Tony Schick which
described how logging industry lobbyists, Oregon Department of Forestry staff, and some legislators
applied pressure on DEQ to suppress a scientific report on the risks that industrial clearcut logging
practices may pose to clean drinking water in Oregon’s coastal communities. The OPB story raised many concerns which we hope you share. From the story:

The fate of that report offers a glimpse at what can happen when a state environmental agency’s
work runs afoul of a politically influential industry. It also shows how, on certain forestry issues, the
agenda of state regulators aligns more closely with the timber industry than with concerned citizens.

Many aspects of this investigative report are troubling, not the least of which is State Forester Peter
Daugherty’s denial of long-settled science regarding clearcutting, steep slopes, and sediment washing
into streams that supply drinking water. Mr. Daugherty’s comments in the OPB story and in the public
records the story references demonstrate efforts to suppress concerns about landslide risks from
clearcutting, despite the fact that DEQ specifically included scientific references to landslide risks in its
study. That a senior leader in the agency would deny the very existence of this science is deeply
troubling.

There is a growing accumulation of evidence which leads us to question the behavior of ODF staff and
the Board of Forestry that oversees the agency. This pattern of denying science and evidence that proves inconvenient to the logging industry is akin to the tobacco industry’s denial of cancer links, and the oil industry’s denial of climate change. This is the same pattern that led to the air toxics scandal in Portland and lax oversight of a host of other environmental and human health concerns in our state.
Additionally, the OPB story draws attention to the cozy relationship between ODF and timber industry
lobbyists. Rather than working to protect Oregonians and the environments we live in, some ODF staff
appear to operate on guidance to shield the very industry they regulate from Oregon citizens who expect the agency to enforce forestry rules that keep them and their drinking water safe.

In the past few years OPB, The Oregonian, and many other local news outlets have featured stories that highlight concerns from places like Rockaway Beach, where clearcutting and aerial pesticide spraying have severely damaged the town’s drinking water supply; or Triangle Lake, where the local school, surrounded by clearcuts, found forestry herbicides in the children’s drinking water; or Gold Beach where over three dozen residents complained of illness, property damage and contaminated drinking water from chemicals released by aerial herbicide spraying. These stories give voice to towns like Yachats, whose Mayor went on the record in 2015 to state that clearcut logging dried up the town’s drinking water source a statement supported by research from Oregon State University (OSU). (Jones, Perry 2016)

Governor Brown, Oregonians are counting on you to break this inappropriate relationship between
corporate interests and the agencies that are supposed to oversee them. We believe it is important at
this time that the Governor’s office take action that demonstrates this behavior is unacceptable, and that Oregon will act decisively to protect human health and clean drinking water regardless of where affected communities are located. We cannot allow Oregon to become a state with one set of rules for polluters in Portland, and a second, weaker standard for polluting industries in the Coast Range.

You can restore confidence in DEQ and other state agencies by acting quickly and decisively to address this situation. Specifically, we urge you to take three actions as soon as possible:

  • Direct DEQ to finish and publish the 2015 report titled Oregon Coastal Drinking Water
    Protection Planning, instructing them to release the report in its entirety, including portions that
    ODF and logging lobbyists sought to suppress. DEQ, and all regulatory agencies, need
    direction to implement strategies which prevent the undermining of good science, public
    concerns, or potentially protective regulatory mechanisms.
  • Develop administrative and legislative policy changes to address the issues identified in the
    DEQ report, specifically addressing the lack of drinking water protections for rural Oregon.
  • Appoint a member to the Board of Forestry who is a hydrologist or similar water specialist
    qualified to understand the science regarding drinking water (both quality and quantity issues),
    and who can effectively understand and communicate with agencies like DEQ.

Governor Brown, we know that you share our concern for clean drinking water and human health in
Oregon. As a state we must not allow corporate lobbyists to dictate what scientific evidence our
regulatory agencies are allowed to consider in protecting those values, or allow them to completely
capture a major state agency to the point where it advocates against public health rather than for it.
Please act quickly to address both the scandal around this report, and the urgent need for stronger rules to protect clean drinking water and community health in our coastal communities.

Sincerely,

Oregon Wild
Portland Audubon Society
Cascadia Wildlands
Beyond Toxics
Oregon Coast Alliance
Coast Range Association
Umpqua Watersheds
Citizens of Rockaway Beach for Watershed
Protection
Native Fish Society
WildEarth Guardians
Center for Biological Diversity


 

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

Frontline Communities Need Air Data

Murphy Plywood Mill in Eugene, OR

Air Toxics in West Eugene, OR

All communities need their voices heard and their rightful place in the decisions to strengthen Oregon’s air quality laws. In order to be effective advocates for their own communities and their families’ health, impacted residents need accurate and complete data about toxic pollutants in the Air.

The following letter was submitted on Jan. 10 & 11 to legislators to let them know the will of communities and to ask them to commit to strong toxics reporting laws. Good air follows from accurate data, strong policy and regulations.

Dear Senator Riley, Senator Taylor, Representative Nosse and Representative Helm,

We are writing to follow up with you on your commitment to introduce and pass a Toxics Reporting bill in 2017.

The undersigned groups represent impacted Oregon communities who want legislation that upholds their fundamental right to know what’s in the air and water in their neighborhoods. The principles of environmental justice insist that our communities deserve full public engagement, agency transparency and factual information that we can access easily.

Oregon already has a Toxics Reporting (aka Community Right-To-Know) statute on the books, used successfully since 1996 by the Eugene Fire Marshall’s Office. However, community-level reporting is not enough to satisfy the principles of environmental justice. Some local governments may adopt a Toxics Right-to-Know program if engaged constituents are organized and vocal. Other local governments may not adopt any such program, again leaving some vulnerable communities at a disadvantage to engage in meaningful discussions about their quality of life.

On December 1, 2016, Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality launched its own toxics reporting program when Interim Director Whitman sent a letter to regulated industrial facilities requesting “inventories” of substances they use from a list of 633 toxic chemicals. This new action suggests the DEQ recognizes the need for statewide toxics reporting for better regulatory effectiveness. However, the DEQ inventory requirement is deficient in two core areas.

First, the emissions inventory is based on estimations and modeling. This method lacks accuracy. Regulators need data generated by a precise system based on materials balancing. Materials balancing is the system used by the Eugene Fire Marshall that requires exact mathematical input-output calculations for air, water and land. Materials balancing is critical, particularly in cases where toxic emissions are caused by non-stack activities such as grinding, cutting, shredding, off-gassing, evaporation and other fugitive emissions, all of which can be substantial.

Secondly, the DEQ is not planning to make emissions data accessible to the public. This violates Governor Brown’s directive to provide communities with air quality information. Governor Brown promised that the DEQ will be “providing Oregon families ready access to information about industrial emissions near their homes.” Truly, our communities deserve full public engagement grounded in factual information that we can access in a straightforward manner. The solution is access to data via a public website.

In light of these needs, we urge you to adopt these four critical components of Statewide Toxics Reporting legislation:

1. Stable Funding: “Polluter Pays” based upon quantity of toxic chemicals emitted;
2. Statewide Reporting: All Oregon industrial manufacturers with air or water quality permits are required to report toxics emissions to the DEQ. Statewide reporting is necessary because local reporting programs are inequitable;
3. Accurate Data-Not Estimated Data: Require annual materials balancing, a comprehensive mathematical reporting of toxic releases to air, water and land by the pound, or in the case of a hazardous or extremely hazardous chemicals and radioactive substances, less than a pound;
4. Environmental Justice and Community Engagement: Establishes public and user-friendly online access to toxics reporting data to assist community right to know and informed stakeholder input.
When Governor Brown announced a new statewide initiative, Cleaner Air Oregon in April 2016, she issued a clear commitment to vulnerable communities that“[c]ontinued public engagement as the regulatory reform process moves forward will be critical to achieving cleaner industrial air emissions in our neighborhoods throughout Oregon.”

However, we feel at a disadvantage in the public engagement process without the ability to inform our own communities about the toxics exposures they actually face. Without accurate data and the ability to locate the sources of toxics emissions, our participation is merely subjective estimations of public health risks.

We ask you, as our elected representatives, to address community vulnerability and the principles of environmental justice. Please work with us to introduce and pass a 2017 State Toxics Reporting bill.

Our community organizations promise to sustain your efforts.

We would appreciate a reply to representatives of the following organizations describing your plans to work towards toxic emissions reporting. Thank you very much for your work on protecting air quality and reducing health risks to vulnerable communities.

Signed,

Seventeen Community Groups Who Want Clean Air and Healthy Families:

1. Beyond Toxics

2. Eastside Portland Air Coalition (EPAC)

3. Corvallis Clean Air

4. The Dalles Air Coalition

5. PDX North Harbor Neighbors

6. Linnton Neighborhood Association Board

7. Cully Clean Air

8. South Portland Air Quality (SPAQ)

9. Citizens of Rockaway Beach

10. Portland Clean Air

11. NWDA Air Quality Committee

12. Environment and Human Health Advisory

13. McPhillips Farms (McMinnville)

14. Concerned Citizens for Clean Air (Lincoln County)

15. Cleaner Air Grants Pass

16. Hillsboro Air and Water

17. Stop the Dump Coalition (Yamhill County)

6. Linnton Neighborhood Association Board

7. Cully Clean Air

8. South Portland Air Quality (SPAQ)

9. Citizens of Rockaway Beach

10. Portland Clean Air

11. NWDA Air Quality Committee

12. Environment and Human Health Advisory

13. McPhillips Farms (McMinnville)

14. Concerned Citizens for Clean Air (Lincoln County)

15. Cleaner Air Grants Pass

16. Hillsboro Air and Water

17. Stop the Dump Coalition (Yamhill County)

 

Strides to Improve Air Quality and Ban Asbestos

_mg_2822_500sqHealthy air should be a basic right, but all over the world, people face exposure to toxins that remain unregulated and dangerous. It’s important that the public becomes more educated about these toxins, both in the natural environment and those hidden in consumer products or construction materials within our own homes. With better awareness and education, we can reduce the health risks these toxins pose, and help change the laws that allow the presence of toxic chemicals.

Success for a Healthy Environment

Beyond Toxics has made great strides through their Air Quality Campaign, which focuses on eliminating the harmful effects of air pollution through changes in public policies. Their focus is rallying communities and creating partnerships to spark long-lasting change. One such project, Healthy Air Oregon, focuses on improving air quality, reducing air toxics and reducing greenhouse gases. Because of its extremely hazardous legacy, Beyond Toxics especially focused on getting benzene out of our air. This chemical is among the 20 most widely used in the United States, and is a natural part of gasoline. Benzene is colorless and off-gases quickly, which is how most people are exposed. Benzene has been found to cause cancer, particularly childhood leukemia and other blood cancers. By working with businesses to adopt a No Idling Policy–meaning turning off your car in parking lots, while waiting in line, etc.–the campaign helps limit the amount of pollution from our cars, while further educating the public on the health benefits of doing so.

Awareness and the Need for Action

In addition to being aware of our own potentially harmful footprint on the environment, it’s also essential to be aware of the hazardous materials used by local businesses and manufacturers. The Environmental Protection Agency created The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) in 1986 to ensure hazardous products were stored and handled correctly to reduce risks to the public health and environment. It’s still an active part of communities.

For example, the City of Eugene passed the Community Toxics Right-to-Know Ordinance allowing the public to know exactly, down to the pound, what toxic chemicals are going into the air and water.

The public’s right-to-know helps to keep businesses in check and makes it possible for regulators to do their job. Just this past summer, the Hillsboro Landfill Inc. in Oregon was fined by the DEQ for failing to properly cover waste containing asbestos.


causes-of-asbestos-lung-cancerAsbestos is a natural fiber
known for its fire resistant qualities. There are six different kinds, all of which are carcinogenic, but despite its health risks, asbestos was widely used in construction, for insulation, shingles, roofing, and so on. Asbestos can even be found in average household objects, like certain hair dryers. When disturbed, asbestos fibers can be inhaled and attach to our respiratory system. Because our body can’t break down the fibers, exposure to asbestos can lead to the development of serious health risks, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Because of its known health risks, 52 countries have already banned this toxin. Sadly, the United States is not among them, despite the fact that there’s no safe level of exposure and millions of people are at risk. In June, President Obama signed The Frank R. Lautenberg Act, which amends the Toxic Substances Control Act. This new legislation can help create a path to completely ban asbestos and other toxic chemicals.

Over the next few months, the Oregon Legislature will consider requiring toxics reporting to risk based on the public’s and environmental health and to help agencies track where toxics go.

We can all have a voice in this fight to ban asbestos and to demand toxics reporting.

Here are actions you can take:

1. Please sign our online petition;
2. Contact the Oregon DEQ at cleanerair@deq.state.or and ask them to institute full Toxics Reporting for air and water pollution.
3. Voice your support for the EPA to include asbestos on their list and move forward with the ban. Call your representatives in Congress to support the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2016, which requires the EPA to take action against asbestos.

We need to unify our voices and be proactive to ban asbestos and other hazardous toxins in our environment and homes. Great strides have been made with the help of Beyond Toxics and other organizations working with their communities to make change. Together, we can tackle the toxins that put innocent lives and our earth at risk.

Anna Suarez
Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center (MAAC)

Beyond Toxics Speaks Truth to Timber’s Tall Tales

AERIAL SPRAY RESPONSE:
(this was published as a Letter to the Editor of the Eugene Weekly)

The Register Guard published a Nov. 30 guest viewpoint written by former Lane County Commissioner, Anna Morrison, who no longer lives in Oregon. Displaying her ignorance, she suggested that aerial pesticide sprays are nothing to worry about.

If Morrison had done her homework about aerial sprays, she could have started with Arizona, her new home state. Arizona laws require a 1,320-ft. buffer zone for schools to protect children from pesticide drift. Homes and health care facilities in Arizona are protected by no-spray buffers over 20 times larger than Oregon’s laws.

So how can Morrison falsely opine that Oregon’s paltry 60-ft. pesticide buffers are the nation’s best? Oregon timber trespass laws are Neolithic compared with other states. Arizona, Washington, California and Idaho require large protective buffers because their laws are based on science. Each state recognizes pesticide drift as inevitable.

What’s more, she slammed Mountain Rose Herbs, a local company that provides jobs for 200 people, for following reputable business practices — destroying plants they found were contaminated with the timber herbicide, atrazine and taking the economic hit.

State regulators have rarely sanctioned these pesticide trespass violations. Complaints about ill health and ruined property are not well accounted for by state agencies — take the 2013 Gold Beach case where over 35 people reported being poisoned. That egregious case was counted as a single complaint!

Despite our state’s problems with proper reporting, pesticide testing and public accountability, the herbal company alerted the public because as owner Shawn Donnille said, “people and organic crops should have a basic right to avoid being sprayed by dangerous chemicals.”

Beyond Toxics introduced 2015 legislation to require hefty buffers and advanced notification of aerial herbicide sprays. Timber lobbyists did everything to block our science-based recommended changes to timber law. With no other protective options, Oregon must ban aerial spray.

Lisa Arkin challenges former Lane County Commissioner Anna Morrison to a debate on the merits of pesticide use. Photo: Amy Schneider, Eugene Weekly

Lisa Arkin challenges former Lane County Commissioner Anna Morrison to a debate on Oregon’s Forest Practices Act. Photo: Amy Schneider, Eugene Weekly

I would be pleased to welcome Morrison to a public debate on the Oregon’s forest practices act, and its failure to protect people, communities, drinking water and fish habitat. We could also discuss the impact of clearcut logging on climate and carbon. Real facts required. Let’s not let the timber industry hide the truth in the guise of another misleading opinion piece.

Lisa Arkin, Beyond Toxics, Eugene

Air Toxics are Unreported, thus Unaccounted

Portland Clean Air is releasing today a new report calling into question the validity of Oregon’s air permitting system. The study, A Comparison of Toxic Chemical Use by Permit Type in Multnomah and Washington County, looks at toxic chemicals used by manufacturers in Multnomah and Washington Counties that are reported to the State Fire Marshall and compares them to those reported to air regulators. The study demonstrates that up to 95% of hazardous chemical usage is by industries that do not report their hazardous air pollution to a regulatory authority.

Under federal regulations, the State Fire Marshall is required to keep track of hazardous chemicals stored on an industrial site, called a Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS). HSIS is necessary to inform and protect firefighters in emergency situations. With all industrial chemical users required to report, the State Fire Marshall HSIS data provides comprehensive tracking of chemical storage.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is Oregon’s air regulation agency. The DEQ also collects chemical information when they regulate an industry for air pollution and issue discharge permits.

The DEQ issues 6 levels of Air Contaminant Discharge Permits (ACDPs). Portland Clean Air’s research shows that Title V permits – given to the “large polluters” – emit less than 5% of total permitted air pollution. In Multnomah and Washington County, the extent of this study, only 20 out of 443 industries with an ACDP have the more detailed and stringent Title V Permits.

The report’s key findings are:

1.  Industries with ACDP’s that are not Title V, use the majority of hazardous chemicals in each HSIS hazard class. These presumably smaller industries with ACDP’s use approximately 95% of hazardous chemicals stored by industry in the Multnomah and Washington counties. Their potential to emit pollutants into air and water is significant. However, these permitted industries are not required to report emissions to the Department of Environmental Quality, the agency responsible for protecting air quality.

2. The largest polluters required to have a Title V industrial air pollution permit release less than 5% of hazardous chemical usage in Multnomah and Washington County.

3. Industries without an ACDP ostensibly do not pollute the air. However they store the majority of dangerous chemicals on site. Some do pollute the air. For example, Uroboros Glass was never required to apply for an ACDP but they are a major air polluter. The glassmaker’s emissions were neither tracked by a permit nor reported to the DEQ.

4. Title V industries in Multnomah County have 176,375 55-gallon drums of hazardous chemicals on site. In comparison, all other ACDP types have 4,954,528 55-gallon drums of hazardous chemicals on site.

gooddata_10-13-2016_600pxPortland Clean Air Director Greg Bourget believes these data gaps are serious. “It is the DEQ’s job to know how much lead or mercury, or other dangerous chemicals are going into the air,” he said. “But their permitting system is broken or, more accurately, irrelevant to the tracking of chemical pollutants.”

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director of the clean air advocacy organization Beyond Toxics, supported the conclusions advanced by the study. “Until the DEQ requires that all industrial polluters provide detailed and accurate reporting of their air toxics, Oregonians will never know what they are breathing in their community’s air,” she observed. “We need toxics right-to-know reporting, not pollution estimates provided by industry consultants.”

“Had DEQ collected the information on Bullseye Glass and understood its processes, they would have known about the toxic heavy metals being emitted into our neighborhood 42 years ago,” said Katharine Salzmann member of Eastside Portland Air Coalition, a clean air advocacy group that is part of the coalition of organizations supporting the need for the kind of data collection identified in the report.

The DEQ data gaps in chemicals emissions identified in the new report have led to serious air pollution problems. The latest EPA National Air Toxics Assessment released December of 2015 found Portland was the worst American city for respiratory distress from air pollution. Exposure to hazardous industrial chemicals causes asthma, organ damage, birth defects, and cancer. You can read the report online here: http://portlandcleanair.org/files/ACDP%20HSIS%20Study%20by%20PCA.pdf


Beyond Toxics is a statewide environmental justice organization working to guarantee environmental protections and health for all communities and residents.  We find solutions to the root causes of toxic pollution.  

Eastside Portland Air Coalition is a neighborhood group with a mission to mobilize and support neighbors impacted by toxic air pollution while partnering with stakeholders to enact permanent change in improving air quality. 

 Portland Clean Air‘s mission is to improve our air quality by educating and activating people directly affected by toxic air emissions.

Near Nightmare on Roosevelt Boulevard

I love my home. I have lived in Eugene my entire life. Every night I rest my head on my pillow in the Whitaker as I have since I was a boy. The only other neighborhood I have lived in is Jefferson Westside. My cousins currently live in West Eugene. Comprised of Bethel and Trainsong neighborhoods these communities span a large area of Eugene. At the edge of my neighborhood begins Trainsong. The Chambers overpass divides the Whiteaker and Trainsong neighborhoods. I spent many summers there as a child playing with my cousins, and a few Halloweens trick or treating.

On one Halloween evening spent in beloved Trainsong with my family, I remember walking towards a house with a green light. The mind of a young boy is filled with fears, one of mine was a fear of witches. To my horror a witch stepped out from the doorway.

Adrenaline kicked in and I ran for my life. While I still remember that night as if it was yesterday, most of us outgrow our fears and develop new ones. A fear of young women dressed as witches certainly isn’t one of them.

On Sunday, September 25th I was driving over the chambers overpass and saw something that terrified me to my core. Having just eaten dinner with friends I went from being in a good mood to screaming in horror. My brain couldn’t process what I was seeing. I saw 13 train cars derailed in the Trainsong railyard near Roosevelt and Garfield. With their red and blue sirens flashing brightly, police blocked off both Roosevelt and the northwest expressway. Fire trucks from around the city were there. People in Hazmat suits were scattered across the railyard working frantically. The railyard went from being a place where only trains and homeless folks could be found to a full-fledged crime scene. Because this was a crime scene. It was a scene where anyone could see the irresponsibility of corporations and the lack of governmental accountability, unfolding right before our eyes. According to reports I heard after I arrived home, one of the train cars was filled with liquefied petroleum gas that could have exploded. Had that happened, the derailments could have potentially left hundreds, if not thousands, dead. A partial evacuation of the area occurred and traffic was delayed for hours.

trainsongphoto02-joelblog-oct2016_600px

Beyond Toxics has been advocating for environmental justice in West Eugene for years. It is no secret that West Eugene has 99% of polluting industry in their backyard. It is no secret that people who live in Trainsong live with the threat of noxious fumes from industry and idling trains near their homes—every day. It is no secret that West Eugene has the highest concentration of children, elderly, folks with disabilities, and people of color. The people who live in the Trainsong and Bethel neighborhoods have terribly poor access to medical clinics, grocery stores, public transportation, green space, parks, and living wage jobs. Politically speaking, the Bethel neighborhood has some of the lowest membership in their neighborhood councils, while the Trainsong council has not been active for over 3 years. This is not by accident. Historical forces have shaped this perfect storm in which the most vulnerable to these catastrophic disasters are the least equipped to deal with them.

Had any of those trains been filled with crude oil, had any of them exploded, anything within a mile of the initial blast would be in flames. As Halloween approaches I am more afraid of the possibility of a crude-oil train derailment than anything I will see on TV or on our streets. You should be too.

Joel Iboa

Regulating air for community health – a new concept in Oregon?

Governor Kate Brown initiated the Cleaner Air Oregon campaign after state agencies discovered that glass makers were the source of heavy metals – arsenic, cadmium, nickel and chromium – impacting nearby neighborhoods in Portland. Toxics heavy metals were found in the air and in the soil, including the soil of home gardens. Children were taken to doctors to have their blood tested for heavy metals known to cause cancer and neurological impairment.  Residents were warned against eating their own homegrown vegetables! Indeed, Oregon has an air quality crisis due to a long history of lax regulations and negligible enforcement.

I’m please to share that Beyond Toxics has been invited to contribute to the Cleaner Air Oregon process. Because Beyond Toxics is an active and longtime representative of air pollution concerns in environmental justice communities throughout our state, I’ve been appointed to the Cleaner Air Oregon Policy Rulemaking Advisory Committee. My goal is to make sure that all communities, especially those outside the Portland Metro area, are considered as we craft new, stricter and health-based air quality regulations!

We are concerned that polluting industries will try to co-opt the Cleaner Air Oregon rulemaking process.  Working closely with other Portland-based environmental, social justice and public health groups, the Eastside Portland Air Coalition and Beyond Toxics sent a letter to Governor Kate Brown on September 19. We thanked her for her vision to ensure clean air for all Oregonians. But we also made it clear that we need leadership from the Governor and the state agencies to keep the public health goal front and center! We must end Oregon’s long history of allowing polluters to call the shots when it comes to regulations and enforcement! Read our letter here.

Last week, Beyond Toxics attended the public forum on Cleaner Air Oregon held in Medford hosted by the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Environmental Quality. I commend the two agencies on a thoughtful and interactive program.  I encourage everyone to try to make it to one of the upcoming Cleaner Air Oregon forums (Bend, Pendleton and Portland). These forums are a fabulous opportunity to have your voice heard.

I believe it is essential that Oregonians from outside the Portland Metro area help our regulators and the Governor understand that serious air pollution problems exist in many communities, not only Portland. Please show up at a regional forum and tell your story from your own community. If you can’t attend, you will soon be able submit your air quality policy choices through this DEQ website.

Toxic air fumes less than a block from homes in West Eugene

Toxic air fumes less than a block from homes in West Eugene

We’ve served on workgroups, task forces and advisory committees before. We know that the process has to be squeaky clean and we also know protecting public health should be paramount.

Believe it or not, Oregon has never had health-based air regulations. Agencies grant air pollution permits without an assessment of health impacts to nearby neighborhoods.  Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality never asks how communities are affected by multiple toxic chemicals coming from the smokestacks of one, or many, manufacturing facilities. Just imagine how much harmful pollution exposure communities surrounded by industrial corridors have endured over the decades, places such as West Eugene, Springfield, Medford and Northeast Portland!

Air toxics fumes near downtown Medford.

Air toxics fumes near downtown Medford.

I will be standing strong for the most protective human health-based air regulations possible. As I see it, Oregon needs to adopt air quality regulations that throw out the old paradigm of giving air pollution permits without regard to how airsheds become saturated with solvents, gases, heavy metals, diesel particulate and more!  Beyond Toxics has been vocal in our demand to require accurate pollution emissions reporting, assessment of cumulative impacts from multiple toxics exposures, stringent air pollution control mandates, frequent ambient and facility monitoring and hefty fines for non-compliance.

Help us keep the Governor, the DEQ and the Health Authority true to the mission of Clean(er) Air Oregon!  Let them know you support Beyond Toxics and EPAC’s unwavering demand for an effective air toxics regulatory overhaul protective of human and environmental health.

 

Crow Feather Farm

Beyond Toxics is publicizing local gardens friendly to our increasingly fragile population of pollinators. In this blog we visit Jessica Jackowski’s garden in Eugene.

Along a path at Crow Feather Farm, borage blossoms unfurl in spirals. A honeybee dances among them, then attaches herself upside down to a nectar-rich mini-grotto, proboscis sucking up sweetness. A few spirals over, a plump velvety bumblebee alights, and a hummingbird waits on a post nearby.

Journey to Mexico's butterfly sanctuaries and stand among hundreds of millions of monarchs as they complete their remarkable migration.

Journey to Mexico’s butterfly sanctuaries and stand among hundreds of millions of monarchs as they complete their remarkable migration.

 

Jessica’s vegetables and flowers spill over each other here in deceptively haphazard exuberance. I’ve come to learn about attracting pollinators, but her holistic vision doesn’t allow for one-tracked goals. Everything here supports everything else. The borage offers its pollen to bees and butterflies, while its deep taproot softens hard soil. Likewise, its fleshy foliage can be used for mulch, and is a great addition to the compost pile.

A few yards away, in its own microclimate, a patch of red leaf lettuce is shaded by tall buckwheat drinking up the sun. Buckwheat is a “wonderful nectary,” notes Jessica, and “makes rich dark honey.” It’s a fast growing cover crop, too, flowering quickly. “If there’s a bare spot in your garden, and you’re not ready to plant for a month or two, buckwheat is perfect.”

Jess with male Monarch

Jess with male Monarch

She touts culinary herbs as well. “Plant more than you need, and let several flower and go to seed; bees will be all over them.” Thyme, oregano, winter savory, and mint peek through mulch throughout her garden. Veggies too are pollen providers. We can let a few perennial leeks go unharvested, and curb that impulse to rip out bolting kale. Insects love the flowers of both.

As we amble along, Jessica identifies a vigorous plant as parsnip. It turns out parsley, dill and parsnip are all insect playgrounds. Their umbel structure — hundreds of tiny clustered flowers arranged in concentric circles — seduce a wide range of pollinators. Beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps and lacewings are also frequent visitors.

Jessica states, “I’m trying to create a habitat not only for my family, but other beings too. The more I’m integrating and supporting all parts of the garden — the habitat for birds and insects, the microbes in the soil, all the different players — the stronger it’s becoming.”

The relationship is reciprocal. Five years ago a member of NABA (North American Butterfly Association) noticed the abundant nectaries at Crow Feather Farm and donated milkweed, the unique host for Monarch butterfly larvae. Two years later, when the plants flowered in June, Jessica brought a bouquet inside the house for her child’s fourth birthday. After a week or two, they found a Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed leaf; it had hatched right on the bouquet.

The Monarchs return annually to lay their eggs on the milkweed patch, and “for Avery’s birthday, we raise a butterfly every year.”

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Please join Jessica 10am on Saturday, August 20 for a tour of multi-functional late summer pollinator friendly plants at Crow Feather Farm. Email growfoodlearnhow@gmail.com to reserve your spot and get location details. Space is limited.

For more information visit www.crowfeatherfarm.com or contact Jessica at growfoodlearnhow@gmail.com.

“Herbicides as a Last Resort” – A County Policy Ignored, Never Defined and Never Implemented

Beyond Toxics was one of the members of a Lane County Roadside Integrated Vegetation Management Plan Stakeholders group. The IVMP stakeholder group was very diverse, with members ranging from the Lane County Farm Bureau to NCAP to ODA to Beyond Toxics. The reason I agreed to join the IVMP stakeholder group was to tackle the challenge of researching, writing and working with others to adopt a true Herbicides as a Last Resort Policy. Lane County supposedly had such a policy on the books, but it was never actualized.

My personal and organizational position during the year-long stakeholder process was that roadsides should be managed without the use of herbicides. Happily, I can state that I was not the only stakeholder member to voice this. The environmental advocates, scientists and practitioners on the stakeholders group all agreed that the herbicides are human and environmental poisons that have no place in routine roadside maintenance. Herbicides result in dead zones that are not only ugly and unhealthy, but also create the perfect environment for invasive weeds! The evidence we presented about the harmful impacts of herbicides in the environment helped move the entire group towards recommending very high standards focused on “non-herbicidal control methods,” “prevention,” and protection of public health, environmental health, water, wildlife, aquatic species, amphibians, and pollinators.

Example of broadcast herbicide spray along roads (left). In sharp contrast (right), roads can be pollinator pathways.

Example of broadcast herbicide spray along roads (left). In sharp contrast (right), roads can be pollinator pathways.

We also recommended a lengthy vetting process before any decision can be made to use herbicides. The criteria for establishing a list of allowable herbicides is strictly health protective: no carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, reproductive or neurological toxicants, and nothing that harms pollinators, fish and other species of wildlife. Not only does the Board of Health weigh in to approve a list, but the Director of Public Health and the Lane County Health Advisory Committee also bring their medical and health expertise to the process. The public will also be involved.

The success of this proposed policy is bound to collecting robust environmental data about noxious and invasive weeds. The policy demands that data collection drive the decisions. We must make use of technologies such as new GIS mapping software, weather forecasting, tracking invasive species across a landscape, combined with trained botanists surveying our roadsides to identify weed species and create weed inventories.

Lane County also needs to develop greater tolerance for weeds and “unwanted” vegetation. This tolerance will become more important as we see greater weed variance coming as a result of the effects of warmer weather and dryer landscapes.

Both robust data collection and increased tolerance for unwanted vegetation are part of this proposed policy.

Two scenarios convinced me that I could be part of a consensus vote to approve a limited, very narrow and data-driven IVMP proposal that might include the use of herbicides:

1. A dangerous guardrail on a blind curve is a location where limited herbicide use could be warranted. Workers have been injured while cutting away vegetation underneath guardrails that are constructed between the curved road and a steep embankment. Beyond Toxics supports worker safety and fair treatment of workers.

2. Puncturevine is a noxious weed that can injure livestock, people, and pets when stepped on and can even puncture bicycle tires. It easily spreads via mowing. It is difficult to remove. However, sprayed once, it can be knocked back. Then, because puncturevine doesn’t compete well with other vegetation, it can be restrained by encouraging natural vegetation to cover the open areas and reduce the potential for growth.

When I was interviewed for the Register Guard article, I specifically said that I wholeheartedly support the current No Spray Roadside policy. That statement was not reported, but it is important that my position is known. The recommendation for the proposed Vegetation Management Policy is a consensus position from a diverse set of participants in a work group. The recommended policy prioritizes human and environmental health, data-based decision making and strict restrictions on when, how and what herbicides might be used, and only after prevention and non-herbicide methods have been employed. True, the proposed policy is not a complete ban, but it is the “Herbicides as a Last Resort Policy” the County has on the books but was not defined or implemented. This is a health-focused, environmentally-sound model for roadside management. Other city, county or state agencies can adopt this model in order to end the common methods of routine, broadcast and foliar sprays of poisons. Lane County can lead the way to commit to protection, prevention and alternatives to toxics.

Lisa Arkin, Exec.. Director
Beyond Toxics

We Need Resilient Forests

Lisa Arkin, Beyond Toxics Exec. Director, at a resilient forest near Selma, Oregon.

Lisa Arkin, Beyond Toxics Exec. Director

“Timber’s Cover-Up” tells the forest story and offers solutions … in 4 minutes

Recently, I had lunch in the employee cafeteria of an international corporation based in Lane County. I was somewhat amazed, but pleased, to see efforts to celebrate Farm Worker Appreciation Week. There were large colorful posters of farm workers and glossy brochures.  Their handouts urged the reader to consider how their food is grown, who harvests their food and if workers are treated fairly.

In other words, consumers were being asked to evaluate the ethics of our food system and the impact our choices have on our planet and the people who work in the fields.

Why aren’t we demanding the same information about the wood products we buy?

That was a question posed during the 2016 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference session, “Models of Biodiverse Forestry as Alternatives to Oregon’s Industrial Timber Practices.” Beyond Toxics sponsored this panel featuring three innovative Oregon foresters. They laid out solutions to a host of vexing environmental and economic problems exacerbated by Oregon’s conventional model of industrial forestry.

The owners of Zena Forest, Hyla Woods and Shady Creek Forest Resources described a forest management and timber harvest model that parallels the organic foods movement. They challenged the audience to demand wood products that are produced without environmental harm.

Just as consumer demand for environmental benefits has created growth in the organic food movement, shouldn’t we each be asking similar questions about timber harvesting such as,

“Did this 4×4 come from a clear-cut that’s been sprayed with chemicals? Is it FSC certified?”

“Is my baby crawling on beautiful oak wood flooring harvested locally from a responsibly managed forest or chemically-treated laminate flooring from China?”

These experiences grew into the idea to create a short film that challenges the greenwashing ad campaigns by the conventional industry and offers a vision for a modern forest management model.  And we did it in under 4 minutes!

Beyond Toxics’ new, short film, “Timber’s Cover-Up” uses aerial photography to look far above and deep within industrial forests “Timber’s Cover-Up” reveals how forest ecosystems are interrupted and destroyed by conventional industrial forestry. It debunks the myth that tree plantation farming is “sustainable reforestation.”

Dave Eisler and Sarah Sheffield

This is what a resilient forest looks like. Shady Creek Forest Resources owners, Dave Eisler and Sarah Sheffield.

The film goes on to explore the question “what is a healthy, resilient working forest?”  You’ll get an introduction to innovative foresters like Dave Eisler of Shady Creek Forest. Dave is building a forest economy favoring selective logging of Oregon’s native hardwood tree species mixed with Douglas fir. Shady Creek Forest never sprays herbicides by air or on the ground, never clear cuts and thereby recognizes the value of Oregon’s native hardwoods as marketable timber.

Forests managed responsibly, known as “Resilient Forests,” allows for ecological values to be embedded within an economic model.  We need a different economic model now. The Oregon Forest Practices Act fails to require timber management that meets the needs of a changing climate future. Oregonians should not let these short-sighted forest policies continue.

Forests can be managed intentionally for native biodiversity, stream protection and neighboring community safety.  We must demand environmental benefits from forest practices.

We need Resilient Forests. “Timber’s Cover-Up” produced by Beyond Toxics, proposes that Oregon become an industry leader. We must create consumer demand business incentives for resilient forestry.