The Dalles Air Coalition wants Hope [Arkansas]

Treated and untreated railroad ties stored at Amerities in The Dalles Thursday morning. Mark B. Gibson photo

This is the conclusion of a three-part series exploring the controversy over odor and emissions at Amerities West:

LINK TO STORY 1

LINK TO STORY 2

When Amerities South, located in Hope, Ark., had its grand opening in 2011, Warren Nelson, director of Amerities Holdings, told the Hope Star “This land is clean and will be kept clean.”

A group of The Dalles residents concerned about creosote air pollution wants to know why the same can’t be said of the tie plant in their town.

At an April 29 protest downtown, one person held a sign—“Give us Hope Arkansas.”

Michael Byrne, who grew up in The Dalles and now resides in Parkdale, called the Amerities West plant “scary.”

“It’s right out of an old science fiction thing,” he told the Chronicle.

But Amerities West Plant Manager Jeff Thompson, who did the preliminary design work for Amerities South, and John Getz, who was the onsite construction manager and is now the plant manager there, said the Arkansas facility isn’t that different than the one in The Dalles.

Both use creosote, which is purchased from the same supplier. “In terms of the basic process, we don’t do anything different,” Thompson said.

Both plants have air scrubbers. But the scrubber in Arkansas does have an extra ‘knock out’ tank that condenses vapors. Amerities West has had a scrubber since 1996.

“We’ve tried to use a lot of innovative technology,” Thompson said. “We took the same technology we had here [The Dalles] and put it there [Hope].”

While the treatment plant in The Dalles is all out in the open, Amerities South is under a roof. But Thompson said that is only because Hope gets a lot more rainfall.

“The roof is strictly for water,” he said. “There’s no vapor control. Air comes in from the west side.” Thompson said the biggest difference between the two plants is that Amerities South, located 5-10 miles outside of Hope, is in a more rural area, like The Dalles plant was when it was first built in 1922.

While Thompson’s plant has thousands of neighbors, Amerities South has less than 10.

“In the 50s it [eastside of The Dalles] was still majority farmland,” Thompson said. “It’s 100 acres down here. We’re not hiding. But the town has expanded east and we’ll try to find a meaningful solution for both sides.”

Getz, who was the plant manager of Amerities West from 1987-89, said Amerities South had four complaints filed with the Arkansas DEQ when it first opened but hasn’t had any in over two years.

The Oregon DEQ received 225 complaints from 49 addresses regarding Amerities West in 2015 and has gotten 55 from 11 locations so far this year.

DEQ has been conducting surveys in The Dalles for over a year to track the strength, duration and offensiveness of the odors. So far they’ve gone to 15 different locations and done 14 surveys at each site.

Air monitors are scheduled to arrive in The Dalles by the end of the month, which will be the first naphthalene testing done since 2012.

Amerities West and DEQ signed a Mutual Order Agreement last month to implement odor-reducing strategies. DEQ will hold a public hearing May 17 at 6 p.m. in the Columbia Gorge Community College lecture hall, located on the third floor of Building 2.

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