February 7th UPDATE
DEQ announced that JH Baxter is refusing to pay for any of the cleanup at its site or the dioxin contamination in nearby neighborhoods! This company is trying to walk away from the contaminated mess they created!
JH Baxter does not plan to clean up their mess in West Eugene. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced that JH Baxter is refusing to pay for any of the cleanup at its site or the dioxin contamination in nearby neighborhoods. Dioxin causes cancer and other life-changing health problems. Who will clean up dioxin in our neighborhood?
What happened to Polluter Pays?
DEQ will seek to recover clean-up costs from state and federal funds, not the polluter. We say the POLLUTER MUST PAY, not the tax-payers! We are currently meeting with agencies and elected officials to get answers and to ensure that JH Baxter is held accountable for their pollution.
When a polluter poisons surrounding neighborhoods, they should be held accountable. What happened to the principle of Polluter Pays? Right now, West Eugene residents are paying with their health, property values and tax dollars. This is a gross injustice! Stay tuned as this story develops.
Jan. 2022: COMMUNITY VICTORY FOR THE RIGHT TO CLEAN AIR!
After intense public pressure and mounting evidence of dangerous levels of toxic pollution, JH Baxter, a creosote manufacturer, announced it is closing its doors on January 31st!
See also, Lisa Arkin's latest blog, "Public Pressure Brings Down Polluting Giant"
Last week, Beyond Toxics in collaboration with the Active Bethel Community organization, sent letters to Eugene's mayor and city council demanding that our elected officials ask Governor Brown and the DEQ to issue a Cease and Desist order. This order would have shut down JH Baxter until Eugene residents are assured we have pollution remedies to make the polluter clean up the contamination.
Cease and Desist letter (PDF)
While many questions remain about the company's accountability for the damage they have caused in terms of health, property safety, property values and environmental quality, JH Baxter's shut down will mean that West Eugene residents will be spared the noxious and nauseating creosote fumes that have ruined their wellbeing for so long!
JH Baxter, a creosote manufacturer in the heart of the Bethel neighborhood, has been found culpable of burning off 1.7 million gallons of creosote waste water, violating their air and waste pollution permits and emitting dioxin that has now contaminated multiple residential and public properties. Dioxin, a highly poisonous substance that causes cancer and serious illness, was the substance that poisoned American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War (remember Agent Orange?).
WE BROUGHT ATTENTION TO JH BAXTER'S BAD POLLUTION FOR OVER A DECADE, STARTING WITH OUR FAMOUS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE BUS TOURS. Beyond Toxics is on the front lines fighting for clean air, clean water and now dioxin-free backyards and playgrounds!
This is the beginning of healing our community, but there is more work to do! We have sent proposals to our City Council to update Eugene's land use zoning to protect public health, and to require polluters to carry risk bonds. We'll share all with you and ask you to join with us to protect the air and properties of all neighborhoods, including West Eugene! Together, we must continue to ask for strong policies that will prevent polluters like JH Baxter from harming our communities with intentional and preventable pollution emissions.
Watch our latest video about work to protect air, water and soils in Eugene (YouTube).
I'm thrilled to bring you this good news about reducing pollution and holding polluters accountable. This is all about environmental justice and the human right to clean air and healthy neighborhoods! Hurray to everyone who has helped win this fight!
~ Lisa Arkin, Executive Director, Beyond Toxics
Beyond Toxics is fighting for fair and equitable treatment for our community members, every day and night. Read our Executive Director's recent testimony to the Eugene City Council. We want to thank Councilors Groves, Syrett, Evans, Clark and Keating for their support for ensuring Eugene immediately adopts proactive and protective clean air policies.
IN THE NEWS...
After 80 years, Eugene's J.H. Baxter plant shutters but legal entanglements remain
By Brian Bull for KLCC radio - 1/31/22 (AUDIO)
Dirty Dirt: JH Baxter in west Eugene is ceasing operations while residents wait for cleanup after soil samples show contamination in six west Eugene properties
By Cole Sinanian and Clayton Franke | Eugene Weekly - 1/27/2022
J.H. Baxter wood treatment plant in west Eugene to end operations Monday
By Adam Duvernay, Register-Guard (PDF)
Plans to clean up Eugene yards contaminated near J.H. Baxter plant still in the works
By Adam Duvernay, Register-Guard (PDF)
Oregon DEQ finds carcinogenic compounds in west Eugene yards around J.H. Baxter & Co. plant
By Adam Duvernay, Register-Guard - Jan. 14th, 2022 - PDF of story
Soil removal ordered for homes near J.H. Baxter plant in Eugene
KLCC | By Brian Bull - Published Jan. 14th, 2022
DEQ orders urgent soil removal at homes near Eugene plant (KEZI-TV)
By Chelsea Hunt - January 13th 2022
City of Eugene closes Trainsong Park temporarily due to dioxins in soil
by KMTR-TV News Staff - January 13th 2022
Beyond Toxics' intitial response to news of the discovery of dioxin-contamined soil...
“This “recent” discovery of what we as a community have suspected for decades is bittersweet. Yes, we wanted to know exactly what has been and is still poisoning our neighborhood, but this “victory” comes at the cost of several community homes knowing for a SCIENTIFIC FACT that they are living on dangerous soil. That’s scary and beyond not ok. This makes me want to fight harder for west Eugene. Fight harder to help end the environmental racism that west Eugene faces every day.”
- ARJORIE ARBERRY-BARIBEAULT, West Eugene Community Organizer
Lisa Arkin's testimony to the City Council (1/24/22):
I’m speaking today about a sense of despair and despondency for those of us who have cared about the heavy burden of pollution in West Eugene. We are asking you all for help and meaningful partnerships. My comments are meant to give you 3 of many examples of how West Eugene residents are so often dismissed and excluded.
First of all I want to thank Councilor Matt Keating for his supportive responses to Bethel residents who gave testimony to the LRAPA Board today to ask for more citizen representation from communities impacted by air pollution on the citizen’s advisory committee. Unlike Mr. Keating, a few LRAPA Board members made disparaging remarks to these Bethel residents, suggestions that they did not have the capacity to contribute to a citizen’s advisory committee, and some of those comments had a veneer of discrimination to them. That was a slap in the face for those and all Bethel residents.
And residents have heard dismissive responses from staff at regulatory agencies, Bethel residents suffering from asthma or more serious illnesses who are subjected to frequent noxious stenches from industrial polluters, have been told that “not every bad industrial smell they breathe is harmful” only later to learn that there have been spikes of naphthalene in the air and dangerous levels of dioxin in the their soils.
And thank you to Councilors Syrett and Evans and Mayor Vinis who attended the ABC neighborhood meeting and heard people ask the city to do more to protect the residents who are dealing with dioxin contamination, brain damaging air toxics and polluted ground water.
We’ve asked for a Cease and Desist Order, but have heard suggestions that the neighborhood needs to wait and to not take action now because more testing needs to be done. But they’ve been waiting decades for help, certainly since 2012 when the DEQ identified JH Baxter as an intentional and repeated polluter, and have been waiting decades for their elected officials to join them to put a stop to the situation at JH Baxter. Please work with us to find effective and timely solutions!
~ Lisa Arkin, Exec. Director, Beyond Toxics