A meeting is set for Tuesday, March 21 to discuss the final results of air quality testing that found naphthalene remains below levels that might produce immediate health concerns, but exceeds levels for lifetime exposure.
The meeting, by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, is set for 6 p.m., in the third floor auditorium in Building 2 at the college, 400 E. Scenic Dr.
Naphthalene is the smelly ingredient in creosote, which is used to preserve railroad ties at the AmeriTies West plant on the east end of The Dalles. Levels of other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) were also tested.
Initial testing results released last August also showed elevated levels of naphthalene in The Dalles. The data being discussed at this meeting was taken between June 2 and Nov. 19.
The data was collected before AmeriTies switched to a new wood presevative in December, one with considerably less naphthalene. DEQ will do more air monitoring later this year.
The Oregon Health Authority, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will discuss the process for a health consultation report to evaluae whether there are harmful long-term health effects from exposure to naphthalene and other air pollutants in The Dalles.
The health consultation report will include findings relative to the concentrations for each measured contaminant of concern, estimate exposure and exposure duration, and the health risks given what is known about the toxicity and effects of the chemicals examined, according to the DEQ.
Testing results showed naphthalene concentration levels ranged from .006 to 5.78 micrograms per cubic meter.
The highest measured concentrations were found at the Wasco County public works and planning building, located immediately east of AmeriTies.
Naphthalene concentrations were found well below the provisional 24-hour screening level set by the Oregon Health Authority, which is 200 micrograms per cubic meter.
The average concentration of naphthalene in samples varied considerably by location. The lowest average was at Cherry Heights, (.063 micrograms per cubic liter) while the highest average was at the county public works/planning building (2.37 micrograms per cubic meter.)
The testing found no correlation between naphthalene levels and tie plant production.
The substances measured “generally do not pose immediate or urgent health risks, but many of them can increase lifetime cancer risk with prolonges exposure,” according to the DEQ.
DEQ spokesman Greg Svelund earlier said one of the hardest concepts to gt across to people is the difference between how much naphthalene represents an acute risk (200 micrograms per cubic meter) vs. the tiny amount (.03 micrograms per cubic meter) that, with constant exposure over an entire lifetime, represents enough longterm risk to cause one case of cancer per millon people.
“It’s really hard for people to comprehend the difference between short term and long term, especially when kids are involved. It’s just really hard,” Svelund said.
“The concerns and the odors themselves are very real for people,” he said earlier.
“There are personal sensitivities not only to naphthalene but to any odor, and there’s real health effects to that,” he said. They can include headaches, scratchy nose and scratchy mouth.
Various sources contribute to the presence of naphthalene and other PAH’s, including vehicle exhaust, cigarettes, woodstoves and wildfires.
AmeriTies West is also a significant contributor of naphthalene and other PAH’s in The Dalles, according to the DEQ.
The testing was done after a sufficient number of complaints were received in 2015 to trigger the DEQ’s odor nuisance strategy.
Kris Cronkright moved to The Dalles to a home right above the tie plant two years ago, and began experiencing migraines and extreme exhaustion. After two months, her family moved, and she became an activist.
“I hope this meeting can be a gturning point in inciting action from the appropriate agencies, AmeriTies and the community,” she said.
“I feel gratitude that the issue of air quality, of quaity of life, is finally being more widely recognized as an ongoing problem for The Dalles community,” she said. “Given the alarmingly high levels of toxic compounds in our airshed, my hope is that the regulatory agencies do their job to protect us from furgther exposures.”
She said, “Technology is speeding up at a rate that is almost unimaginable, yet AmeriTies still employs archaic, open-air operations methods. We all know they can do better by gtheir community, we simply have to ask.”
AmeriTies has a permit to emit compounds inclouding naphthalene, and is well below the limits set in the permit. It is alloweed to emit 39 tons of volatile organic compounds yearly, and emits 11 tons.