NW Metals Cited After Fire

Photo: KATU

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality today cited the auto dismantler NW Metals for multiple environmental violations. NW Metals is where the March 12 Northeast Portland scrap yard fire occurred. DEQ also issued a cleanup order for the property this week. 

Environmental violations include:

  • Auto dismantling activities that allowed oil on the ground to mix with rainwater and drain into underground dry wells 
  • Storing more than 1,500 waste tires without a permit
  • Mixing together used oil and antifreeze

The cleanup order requires the property owner and operator of NW Metals to remove fire debris and clean up any contamination on the site that could be a threat to public health.

Specifically, the order requires NW Metals to: 

  • Remove fire debris: NW Metals has seven days to select a contractor who will begin properly disposing of burned cars, tires and other debris on the site. 
  • Determine potential groundwater impacts: There are “underground injection control” devices, or dry wells, that are meant to capture rainwater from the site. During the fire, they also captured fire suppression chemicals and liquids from the fire. NW Metals must sample the groundwater and soil in and around the dry wells to assess potential contamination associated with the fire.
  • Sample soil on site and on adjacent burned properties: DEQ is requiring NW Metals to sample soil at its site and two adjacent burned properties. The purpose is to identify any soil contamination created as a result of the fire and fire-fighting activities, and potential contamination from industrial activities on the site before the fire.

State public health officials continue to recommend people follow normal precautions when gardening and eating homegrown fruits and vegetables. While smoke from fire can result in immediate health impacts from breathing the smoke, it is unlikely that significant amounts of contamination from the fire and smoke would impact soil and gardens in the surrounding neighborhoods. 

Only a small fraction of pollutants released in a fire settle onto the ground, and once mixed with soil, they are not easily absorbed by plants. Precautions described in OHA's Healthy Gardening webpage - http://bit.ly/OHAGarden - and FAQ related to the scrapyard fire - http://bit.ly/OHAFire - are adequate to protect against any residual risks related to this fire. 

Source: Oregon DEQ

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