Residents of Portland’s Cully neighborhood continue to face disproportionate exposure to air pollution, and the Owens-Brockway glass-recycling plant is responsible for emitting harmful levels of arsenic, lead, particulate matter, and other respiratory irritants into the surrounding area. On June 25, the facility operator, Owens-Brockway Glass Container, Inc., appealed a June 3 enforcement action and $1 million fine issued by the Department of Environmental Quality to address a pattern of air-quality violations. In response, a group of Cully community members and Portland-based organizations sent a letter to the company expressing disappointment in its choice to challenge the regulatory action rather than complying, and calling on the company to sit down with affected community members to find solutions for cleaner air.
“Owens-Brockway’s lack of preventative actions and refusal to install filters to reduce multiple pollutants of concern could easily be interpreted by many as systemic environmental racism that is rooted in placing dangerous industries near marginalized populations, including children and teachers at nearby public Title One schools, while ignoring the real health consequences from the facility’s pollution stream and emissions,” community groups wrote in the letter. “That lack of corporate social responsibility has no place in our community, and we will continue to challenge you to become a good community partner.” They added: “We ask you to honor our right to and desire for clean air in the Cully neighborhood and all of Portland, while operating a law-abiding plant.”
The letter was sent by Verde, Cully Air Action Team, Oregon Environmental Council, Portland Clean Air, East Portland Air Coalition, and Neighbors for Clean Air with the request that Owens-Brockway work with the community and community groups in its compliance processes.
The facility is the most notorious source of air pollution in Portland’s Cully neighborhood, which is considered an “overburdened community” under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA’s) environmental justice guidelines. Home to more than 13,000 people, Cully includes the most racially and ethnically diverse Census tract in Oregon, with Black, Latino, and Native American residents comprising more than 50% of the population. Residents in the surrounding area face elevated health risks due to hazardous pollutants — but stronger pollution controls can address these dangers.
Earthjustice is working with community partners in Portland to reduce harmful emissions from Owens-Brockway. Read the full letter to Owens-Brockway. Members of the media may reach out to media contacts listed to arrange interviews.