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Odor is on agenda for AmeriTies permit meeting

AMERITIES in The Dalles is requesting a new air quality permit and odor is one of the topics being discussed at an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality open house Feb. 27.

AMERITIES in The Dalles is requesting a new air quality permit and odor is one of the topics being discussed at an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality open house Feb. 27. Photo by Mark Gibson.

Odor from AmeriTies, the railroad tie treatment plant in The Dalles, will be a topic of discussion at an open house to discuss the company’s requested air quality permit.

The meeting Thursday, Feb. 27, will be from 6 to 8 p.m. in the lecture hall in Building 2 at Columbia Gorge Community College in The Dalles. The open house will be an opportunity for community members to informally ask about the facility, odors and the permit renewal process, said Greg Svelund a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

DEQ will give a short presentation at 7 p.m. to offer general information about the facility and the elements of the permit. There will also be three display tables of information on emissions, on odors and on public health. The third table will include representatives of the Oregon Health Authority and local public health.

The meeting will also provide an opportunity to comment to DEQ about the facility.

Odor and emissions are two separate issues, Sveland said.

“It’s important that people understand that this doesn’t have much to do with emission in terms of what the permit allows,” he said. “Odor issues are separate from emissions limits.”

DEQ records show the agency has heard complaints over the years about odors emitting from AmeriTies. From 2009 to 2013, it received 79 distinct complaints. The high was 33 in 2011 and the low was four in 2012. So far this year, it has received two odor complaints.

But until last month, the state didn’t have a strategy for dealing with what it calls nuisance complaints, Svelund said.

“Now we have a nuisance strategy in place and on the books.”

The strategy is triggered when an odor source is the subject of at least 10 different complaints from 10 different addresses within a 60-day window.

“We go out and look at the facility, how strong the smell is, the wind conditions,” Svelund said. “Is it persistent? Is it something that happens at a certain time of day? If it is determined that there is a smell or strong odor at a facility, it basically kicks off this process.”

Svelund is quick to note that the process has not yet been triggered on AmeriTies and the Feb. 27 discussion is informational only at this point.

If it had been triggered, the process would first involve an effort to reach an agreement on how to voluntarily limit odors.

“It would be a thing between the community itself and the business,” Svelund said. “We don’t have any experience with this yet, because the strategy came online just last month.”

A nuisance clause has been part of the permit process for a number of years, he noted, but it took some years to develop a set of rules and guidelines to deal with the issue. In part because the issue of odor can be a subjective thing, developing those rules has been a challenge for DEQ.

Svelund expects it to come up more now for odor sources such as landfills, the Daimler-Chrysler facility in Portland and wastewater treatment plants.

“We aren’t going out and soliciting complaints, but we felt, as part of the renewal it was an opportunity to talk about emissions and, yes, odors, because of the complaints it has generated,” he said.

Svelund said he thinks the interest in the subject exists within the community because a similar meeting 10 years ago at permitting time brought out an audience of more than 100 people.

AmeriTies The Dalles manager Jeff Thompson said he will be in the audience along with the rest of the public at the informational meeting. He is aware of the new state procedure and the fact that DEQ has received odor complaints over the years.

“We have not received that many directly at the plant,” he said, encouraging people to call the plant if they have odor complaints at 541-296-1808.

Thompson said the new nuisance procedure doesn’t seem much different from what has happened in the past, just more formalized.

AmeriTies is subject to emissions permit review every five years, he said.

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