USWA announces new report listing Portland's largest polluters

Two Portland-area environmental groups today released a new report that tracks Portland's largest toxic polluters of air, water and land for the last four years.

PORTLAND, Ore., Oct. 11, 2001 — Two Portland-area environmental groups, Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) and the Environmental Justice Action Group (EJAG), today released a new report that tracks Portland's largest toxic polluters of air, water and land for the last four years.

Using data collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory Reporting Form (TRI), OSPIRG and EJAG determined that Oregon Steel Mills (OSM) ranked as Portland's largest polluter for four consecutive years. The 2000 data is new and not available to the public, except through Freedom of Information requests.

"We researched corporate emissions in Portland since 1997 and found that a staggering amount of toxics are being released by industries into our environment. And Oregon Steel is far and away Portland's biggest polluter," said Environmental Advocate Rhett Lawrence of OSPIRG. "The TRI shows that OSM released more than 3.3 million pounds of pollutants into Portland's air, water, and soil in 2000. That's two million pounds more than the next largest polluter."

Lawrence continued, "We applaud the companies that took measures to reduce the quantity of their emission over the last four years. However, the number of companies which have increased emissions or have not taken steps to reduce emissions is troubling."

The report cited seven hazardous compounds that OSM releases into the environment, including lead, chromium, zinc, and mercury. The largest amounts of OSM waste emissions were Zinc and Manganese compounds, and lead.

"Today's report raises serious questions about the impact corporate emissions are having on our community. This is our air, our water and our land that is being polluted. The top executives of Oregon Steel and these other polluters drive home to their cleaner neighborhoods at the end of the day, while we have to live with the effects of their emissions," said Jeri Sundvall, Environmental Justice Action Group Director, whose group serves low income families and communities of color in North and Northeast Portland.

Sundvall added, "The TRI was created to track information about potentially hazardous chemicals to enable emergency responders and citizens to know the risks posed by these chemicals. North and Northeast Portland residents receive more than our fair share of toxic exposure. By a margin of two million pounds, Oregon Steel is the worst polluter in our neighborhood. It is time for accountability and for OSM to take action to reduce its emissions.

There are real health risks tied to the chemical emissions listed in our report and our community suffers some of the highest rates of asthma. Today's report underscores our concern about whether Oregon Steel is a good neighbor to our families."

OSM ranked No. 1 amongst a list of 23 "Top Corporate Emitters of Toxic Waste in Portland, Oregon" according to the report's 2000 data. OSM's emissions totaled 55% of all emissions produced by Portland's 23 largest polluters.

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