DEQ needs more money to tackle SE Portland air quality

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SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Emotions ran high Tuesday as Southeast Portland residents sounded off on the toxic levels of metals in their neighborhood.

“It’s not fair that we have to live here and get treated like dirt,” Mary Postlethwaite said. “I get up in the morning and I open my door… breath a regular, nasty stench.”

She and others in the community are upset with state lawmakers and the DEQ for allowing a local glass company to spew harmful chemicals into the air for years.

“I’m disgusted with the State of Oregon and how many years I’ve lived here and how sick I’ve gotten since I’ve been here,” Postlethwaite said.

Mary Postlethwaite and others in the community are upset with state lawmakers and the DEQ. (KOIN)

Tuesday’s informational meeting in Salem gave frustrated residents like Postlethwaite a chance to speak out. No action was taken and there is no legislation in the works.

Now the DEQ says it needs more money to tackle the issue.

“The request totals $1.5 million and asks for both monitoring and implementation resources,” Dick Pederson with the DEQ told KOIN 6 News.

The agency also hopes to sharpen its teeth with a risk-based air permit system, giving it more of a say, instead of simply following federal regulations. Both Bullseye and Uroboros Glass Companies say they were compliant with all federal laws.

Lawmakers chimed in with their own take on the problem.

“Some of our land use laws have created this problem,” Rep. Jim Weidner said. “I mean, when I’m looking at this, I think that’s probably one of the biggest issues we’re dealing with is not keeping people away from the industrial zones.”

Rep. Rob Nosse said the regulations in place today “accommodate industrial pollution” and must be examined. After the hearing, a petition with thousands of signatures was delivered to Governor Kate Brown’s office, demanding clean air.

The DEQ says air monitoring will continue with help from the EPA.

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