Coalition Calls for End to Lead Poisoning and Exposure

October 24, 2016

Oregon Aviation Watch is proud to be among the coalition of groups who have joined together to urge federal agencies to end lead poisoning and exposure. We extend our thanks to Earthjustice for their comprehensive research and dedicated effort in spearheading this initiative.

For Immediate Release

October 24, 2016

Zoe Woodcraft, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2071, (818) 606-7509

Health, Environment & Children's Groups Call for National Strategy to End Lead Poisoning and Lead Exposure

Coalition asks federal agencies to make National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week more than symbolic

WASHINGTON, DC - A coalition of organizations across the country have sent a call for action to President Obama's Task Force on Environmental Health and Safety Risks to Children, calling for the U.S. to finally end lead exposure and poisoning for children. The coalition - comprised of experts in national, state, and local organizations focused on issues ranging from children's health to labor concerns, and from doctors to environmental justice advocates - are urging federal agencies with a legal responsibility to finally step up and do their jobs to protect children's health.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin with no safe level of exposure. Elevated blood lead levels harm young children's developing brains, leading to learning disabilities, loss of IQ points, and behavioral problems. Government scientists have concluded that lead is "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." In addition, prolonged exposure to lead is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and reduced fertility. The human body mistakes lead for calcium, prompting our bodies to store lead in our teeth and bones. Failure to prevent lead poisoning in childhood affects future generations: lead in pregnant women can cross the placenta and build up in breast milk, meaning children's harmful exposure to lead often begins before birth and continues through infancy.

"Lead exposure crises are flaring in communities across the country. The high levels of lead in water and soil in Flint, Philadelphia, and East Los Angeles are not stand-alone incidents. They're alarm bells ringing loud and clear that we need to do everything we can on a national level to prevent neurotoxic lead exposure," said Lisa Garcia, Earthjustice's Vice President for Healthy Communities. "We know how harmful lead is for children, but the good news is that we know how to prevent our kids from facing this danger. That's why we're calling for a plan of attack that will require federal agencies once and for all to end this public health hazard that hits our children and communities of color hardest."

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and independent scientists all agree that there is no safe level of human lead exposure. And yet, the CDC estimates that over half a million preschool age children in the United States have levels of lead in their blood high enough to require medical case management.

New Policy on Lead

The coalition of organizations from around the country sent their plan to the President's Task Force on Environmental Health and Safety Risks to Children, co-chaired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services (the plan can be viewed online here). It calls for major actions from legally responsible federal agencies - with a focus on where lead exposure is hurting children, including:

  • EPA must strengthen its standards and enforcement of those standards for lead in air, house paint, dust, soil, and drinking water to prevent the current unacceptable levels of lead exposure in our communities. For example, it is urgent for EPA to reduce new sources of lead in the air children breathe, including from battery recyclers (lead smelters) and aviation fuel. To safeguard children from new lead exposure in everyday life, EPA must prioritize lead as a chemical of concern for immediate health risk evaluation and action under the newly reformed Toxic Substances Control Act this coming December.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must move to a primary prevention approach by identifying and remediating lead hazards before a child is harmed, and aligning its policies with current science to better protect families in their homes.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) must move to ban all lead in children's and household products, and use its recall authority to do more to protect children from lead in products currently in homes.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must withdraw approval for cosmetics and food products currently sold in the U.S. that contain lead.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must adopt stronger worker protection standards, including for pregnant women, to prevent and reduce their lead exposure.
  • The CDC must ratchet down its definition of an elevated blood lead level to reflect that there is no safe level of lead exposure. Evidence shows that the CDC's current reference level of five micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood is far too lax, as levels below that carry harmful health impacts and families need to know much sooner if their children are being exposed to dangerous lead.

The Burden of Lead Exposure Falls Heavily on Children of Color

Due to the widespread industrial uses of lead in gasoline, paint, and metal products for decades in the United States, lead is in our water, soil, dust, and the air we breathe. It also enters our communities every year from new sources of lead, such as wheel weights, certain cosmetics, industrial facilities, and leaded aviation gas for piston-engine aircraft.

Children living in communities of color are most likely to suffer from lead exposure and poisoning. A CDC report from 2004 showed that African American children are over three times as likely to have highly elevated blood-lead levels. African American and Latino communities are often more likely to live near active battery recyclers, former industrial sites, or highways, and to live in older housing that are sources of high levels of lead.

Scientists and Health Professionals Agree That Preventing Lead Exposure Is Urgent

In 2016 a distinguished team of scientists and health professionals united as Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks) released a consensus statement on toxic chemicals with the following statement:

"Lead exposure continues to be a preventable cause of intellectual impairment, ADHD and maladaptive behaviors for millions of children. Scientists agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure for fetal or early childhood development, and studies have documented the potential for cumulative and synergistic health effects from combined exposure to lead and social stressors. Thus, taking further preventive actions is imperative...we call on policy makers to take seriously the need to reduce exposures of all children to lead."

For full statement, visit

The organizations urging federal agencies to take up this comprehensive plan to prevent lead exposure include:

A Community Voice * Alaska Community Action on Toxics * Beyond Toxics * BlueGreen Alliance * California Communities Against Toxics * California Safe Schools * Center for Health, Environment & Justice * Clean Water and Air Matter * Coalition for Economic Survival * Comite Civico Del Valle * Community Science Institute * Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice * Del Amo Action Committee * Downwinders at Risk * Earthjustice * East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice * Ecology Center * Environmental Health Coalition * Environmental Health Strategy Center * Farmworker Association of Florida * Food & Water Watch * Friends of the Earth * Green & Healthy Homes Initiative * Health Justice Project * Healthy Babies Bright Futures * Healthy Homes Collaborative * Hoosier Environmental Council * Inner City Law Center * Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders * International POPS Elimination Network * Jesus People Against Pollution * Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance * Labadie Environmental Organization * Learning Disabilities Association of America * Missouri Coalition for the Environment * Natural Resources Defense Council * New Jersey Citizen Action * Northern Manhattan Improvement Corp. * Ohio Environmental Council * Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition * Oregon Aviation Watch * Pacoima Beautiful * Physicians for Social Responsibility * Public Citizens for Children and Youth * Sierra Club * United Parents Against Lead * Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment * WE ACT for Environmental Justice * Worksafe

# # #

Earthjustice, the nation's premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.

Because the earth needs a good lawyer.

Hillsboro Tribune article "Aviation Watchdogs Clash with Port, FAA in U.S. Circuit Court"

October 22, 2016

The following is commentary on Hillsboro Tribune article "Aviation Watchdogs Clash with Port, FAA in U.S. Court"

Comments on the Article

Many thanks to Travis Loose for covering the 10/5/16 Ninth Circuit Court hearing on the Hillsboro Airport (HIO) third runway expansion. A major issue before the Court was whether or not the additional runway will induce demand and thereby trigger a more thorough and extensive environmental review. In this regard, it served the Port of Portland's interests to claim that the operational count at HIO has decreased. As noted in the article, Port attorney Jason Morgan, argued that the runway did not lead to an immediate increase in operations (landings and take-offs) after it opened in April of 2015, however, this statement is misleading and as such deserves further scrutiny.

Background Information on Who is Served by Port of Portland Airports

The Port currently owns three airports - Portland International Airport (PDX) which facilitates commercial, military and general aviation activity as well as Hillsboro and Troutdale which are general aviation airports that predominantly accommodate a for-profit international flight school - Hillsboro Aero Academy (formerly Hillsboro Aviation).

A 6/04/13 Portland Tribune article Troutdale Flight School is International Cockpit for Pilots[1] sheds light on the nature of the flight training provided by Hillsboro Aero Academy (formerly Hillsboro Aviation) at both the Hillsboro and Troutdale locations. Per the article, "Hillsboro Aviation's Troutdale facility was opened on behalf of a request by Portland Community College to help grow their aviation flight program..." It is noteworthy that in their 2012 Terminal Area Forecast (TAF), the FAA expected the operational count at the Troutdale Airport to remain at between 56,000 and 64,000 operations from 2011 to 2040. However, Port aviation statistics show that the increases at Troutdale were far more sudden, rapid and unanticipated than the FAA realized. Indeed in 2014 Troutdale logged 100,415 operations and 129,033 in 2015. This doubling occurred at around the same time Hillsboro Aero Academy expanded operations at this facility.

The above situation serves as a cogent and compelling example of how rapidly operations can increase at an airport when a flight training company either moves in or chooses to expand.

In late 2014, Max Lyons, the owner of Hillsboro Aviation, sold the flight school to out of state investors. After the sale he stayed on as part owner, manager and CEO of the school.[2] He also continued to run Hillsboro Aviation, which offers charter, sales, and maintenance services. Over the past few years Hillsboro Aviation has undergone a major expansion at HIO.[3]

The private businesses owned and or managed by Lyons at both Hillsboro and Troutdale airports are major contributors to noise, lead and other toxic emissions associated with these airports.

According to the FAA Registry[4], nearly half of the 265 based aircraft at the Hillsboro Airport are registered to companies owned, partly owned, or managed by Lyons. Hillsboro Aero Academy has 83 based aircraft and Hillsboro Aviation lists 41. Yet another HIO aircraft is registered to Lyons Aircraft Leasing LLC and two are registered to his wife, Carol Lyons. The publicly funded $17M third runway was constructed in large part to accommodate the for-profit, private business interests promoted by Mr. Lyons. Please note that $4M of the runway expansion cost was donated by the State of Oregon via a ConnectOregon grant.

General Aviation Operations Shift to PDX and Troutdale After Opening of HIO Third Runway

Returning to the claim by Morgan that the additional runway did not lead to an immediate increase in operations in 2015, it will be necessary to review the operational counts at all Port owned airports especially Troutdale, since Hillsboro Aero Academy has a distinct presence at this location. Significantly, Port of Portland aviation statistics reveals a dramatic monthly increase in general aviation operations throughout 2015 at both PDX and Troutdale Airports. Indeed in January of 2015 the operational count at Troutdale climbed by 42% and by more than 75% in February and March. In April when the Port began utilizing the HIO third runway, operations increased by 55% at Troutdale and 48% at PDX while HIO general aviation activity dropped by -5.4%.

This pattern continues to unfold in May of 2015 with a 55.4% increase at Troutdale and a 44.5% increase at PDX while HIO operations drop by -12.1%. The decline at HIO is even more pronounced in June at -18.3% while general aviation operations increased at PDX and Troutdale by 41.4% and 6% respectively. In July of 2015 general aviation operations increased by 32.4% at PDX and 37.6% at Troutdale while HIO experienced a decline of -12.4%.

This familiar pattern of decreases at HIO with simultaneous double digit increases at PDX and Troutdale continued throughout 2015.

These sudden and hitherto unanticipated changes certainly suggest that the Port may have intentionally orchestrated the shift in an effort to minimize the potential impact of nearly doubling capacity at HIO by adding a third runway. It is noteworthy that though the Port and FAA provided the 9th Circuit Court judges with data on 2015 they didn't bother to mention that by the spring of 2016 operations at HIO gradually began to increase again, simultaneous with a decline in operations at PDX and Troutdale.

Visit to access Port of Portland Aviation Statistics data.

It is also noteworthy that Port admits, "It is not unusual for the level of activity at any airport to vary from time to time." Thus 2015 data may not apply to the future, especially since the capacity of the airport nearly doubled with the addition of the runway.

Port Attorney Provides Misleading Information about Unleaded Fuel

The Tribune article also reported that according to Morgan, "the FAA is currently in the process of phasing out avgas, with unleaded fuel types expected to be readily available by 2018." Morgan is quoted as saying "Lead's going to be gone...I have a hard time seeing what there is worth fighting about still with this case."

It is troubling that the Port hired an attorney who is so uninformed on this issue and one who is perpetuating false information about a toxin that is known to be highly dangerous even at very low levels, so much so that the CDC, the EPA and World Health Organization have warned that there is no safe level of lead in a child's blood. Morgan and the Port would be well-advised to educate themselves on this issue. Towards this end, I suggest they read the Guidebook for Assessing Airport Lead Impacts from the Airport Cooperative Research Program. Please note that Samuel Hartsfield who works for the Port served on the panel for this project.

Per the guidebook, the FAA has been seeking a replacement for leaded fuel for more than two decades and has now set 2018 as the target year for identifying a lead free alternative. " should be noted that the adoption of unleaded AVGAS specifications does not ensure that the fuel will be available in a timely manner or at a price that is competitive with leaded fuel." [6] The report further notes that, "It is expected that any replacement fuel will require infrastructure (fueling) and face other airport challenges before it can be fully implemented."[7]

What this means is that the FAA has not yet identified a replacement fuel nor is there a mandate for pilots to use it. In the absence of a viable alternative, no phase-out plan has been established. The Port does not offer an unleaded fuel alternative at any of their airports nor does any other airport in the greater Portland Metropolitan region. In short, Morgan's statements on behalf of the Port are alarmingly shortsighted and betray a disregard for the environment and public health that is difficult to fathom.


[1] Hachmann, Cari. Troutdale Flight School is Cockpit for International Pilots. Portland Tribune. 6/4/14. Available on-line at

[2] Hammill, Luke. Hillsboro Aviation Sells Flight-Training School, but Day to Day Operations Not Likely to Change. Oregonian. (12/2/14). Available on-line at

[3] Hillsboro Aviation website. Available on-line at

[4] Go to FAA Registry at then type in the names of the companies and individuals.

[5] Guidebook for Assessing Airport Lead Impacts. Airport Cooperative Research Program. 2016. Pg. 4. Available on-line at

[6] Hillsboro Airport Parallel Runway 12L/30R. Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment. Prepared by Port of Portland for the FAA. Volume 2. Page G.9-48. Comment OAW11. (February 2014). Available on-line at

[7] Greenberger, Marci. Forward to Guidebook for Assessing Airport Lead Impacts. Airport Cooperative Research Program. 2016. Available on-line at

Aviation Lead Pollution article by Bryce Covert of Think Progress

October 12, 2016

The 10/12/16 article The Forgotten Source of Lead That's Still Spewing Into Our Air by Bryce Covert of Think Progress explores aviation generated lead pollution. The report brings attention to the ongoing efforts of Friends of the Earth, Earthjustice, Oregon Aviation Watch, and Santa Monica community activists to address this issue. The author points out that Hillsboro Airport ranks 21st in the nation among nearly 20,000 airports in lead emissions.

Just a clarification, Miki Barnes and her husband David, do not live in Hillsboro, nor do they live in the vicinity of the Hillsboro Airport. Fourteen years ago they made a conscious decision to purchase a property more than 12 miles from the Hillsboro Airport. Despite there best efforts they continue to be plagued by oft-times unrelenting airport noise and pollution caused in large part by student pilots training out of the Hillsboro Airport as well as general aviation hobbyists who continue to fly in aircraft that use leaded fuel.

Hillsboro Airport Hearing in U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

August 29, 2016

A date has been set for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing on the Hillsboro Airport third runway challenge. The legal proceedings are open to the public; however the deadline for submitting written and oral testimony has passed.

Hearing Date and Time: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at 9:00 am
Location: Pioneer Courthouse, 2nd Floor Courtroom
Address: 700 SW 6th Ave., Portland, Oregon 97204

In 2014, when the Port of Portland (Port) moved forward with its plan to build a third runway at Hillsboro Airport (HIO), Oregon Aviation Watch raised legal challenges before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals urging the Court to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the effect of the airport and its expansion on the surrounding community. In keeping with their characteristically cavalier attitude of using public money to subsidize private U.S. and foreign business interests at HIO, the Port proceeded to construct the runway in 2015. In so doing the Port and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) opted to ignore, dismiss and minimize the numerous environmental, noise and livability concerns raised by area residents.

The purpose of the runway is primarily to accommodate the for-profit flight training industry largely on behalf of out-of state investors. One of the major beneficiaries of this arrangement is Hillsboro Aero Academy (formerly Hillsboro Aviation) - a company that recruits students from around the globe then proceeds to train them over area homes and neighborhoods. Per the company website, student pilots enrolled in this program annually log over 70,000 flight hours.[1]

In the 86 years during which HIO has grown from a grassy airstrip into the largest general aviation airport in the state, the Port of Portland has never taken a hard look or engaged in a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the environmental impacts of this facility by completing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). As a result the full impact of HIO, which accommodates the largest flight training school in the Pacific Northwest, has never been evaluated. A review of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Port and FAA documentation reveals that HIO is now one of the biggest facility sources in the region of a host of air toxins and unwelcome noise intrusions.

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Background Information

Expansion Subsidized by Public

Though the more than $17 million lavished on the Port to cover the costs of this expansion were subsidized through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a Connect Oregon grant, and the Oregon Department of Transportation, the members of the public, who were forced to foot the bill, are routinely denied a substantive and meaningful voice in the process.

Lead Pollution and Other Toxic Emissions

The EPA has identified HIO as the largest facility source of airborne lead pollution in Oregon. Out of nearly 20,000 airports nationwide, HIO ranks in the top one percent, 21st in the nation in lead emissions.[2] Port and FAA forecasts project that HIO lead pollution will climb from an estimated emission level of 0.7 tons per year (tpy) in 2007[3] to 0.8 tpy in 2016 and 0.9 tpy by 2021.[4] However, the construction of a third runway at this airport has nearly doubled HIO's capacity, thus lead and other toxic emissions are likely to increase well beyond current Port and FAA projections.

In addition to lead, the 2011 EPA National Emissions Inventory (NEI) on air toxins in Washington County reveals that HIO is also the number one facility source of acrolein, 1,3 butadiene, ethyl benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, organic carbon particulate matter 2.5, elemental carbon particulate matter 2.5, and carbon monoxide; the number two source of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter 2.5 emissions; and the third largest source of volatile organic compounds in this jurisdiction. Yet the health and environmental impacts of these emissions were barely addressed in the initial and supplementary assessments on the HIO expansion.

It is also noteworthy that the Clean Air Act required the Port and FAA to report on 6 criteria pollutants known to pose a significant risk to public health and the environment.[5] Except for lead, which was estimated, the Port obtained its readings on these toxins - carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, ozone and particulate matter - from a DEQ monitor located 17 miles away in SE Portland. That is to say that no measurements specific to Hillsboro Airport were obtained. This careless approach towards reporting emission levels at HIO further underscores the need for a comprehensive, site specific environmental impact statement at HIO.


Port documentation on the third runway provided no information on any noise monitoring at HIO. Instead their environmental assessments relied on unsubstantiated estimates. No third party analysis or peer review was provided.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines for Community Noise, noise pollution "has profound health implications" and further notes that, "Severe noise problems may arise at airports hosting many helicopters or smaller aircraft used for private business, flying training and leisure purposes."[6] This has proven to be the case for Washington County residents, who have filed numerous noise complaints over the years including written and oral testimony in opposition to the third runway. Yet despite their collective efforts to address the situation, residents are routinely subjected to disruptive aircraft noise intrusions throughout the day and nighttime hours, often by student pilots who circle repeatedly over homes, neighborhoods, residential properties, schools, daycare centers, prime farmland, waterways and recreational areas both in close proximity to the airport and over rural and woodland properties located 20 miles away.

WHO has documented seven categories of adverse health effects of noise pollution on humans including hearing impairment; interference with spoken communication; sleep disturbances; cardiovascular disturbances; disturbances in mental health; impaired task performance; and negative social behavior and annoyance reactions. WHO also states that, "Although everyone may be adversely affected by noise pollution, groups that are particularly vulnerable include infants, children, those with mental or physical illnesses, and the elderly. Because children are particularly vulnerable to noise induced abnormalities, they need special protection."[7]

Despite considerable documentation on the negative health consequences of noise, no safeguards to protect residents from the ill-effects of aviation noise have been instituted at HIO. Calls to the Port, the FAA, DEQ, and elected officials to address this issue have proven to be ineffective and futile.

Concluding Remarks

In 2010 the FAA issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in response to the Port's initial environmental assessment on the proposed third runway at HIO. Three citizens - Patrick Conry, Blaine Ackley and Miki Barnes - challenged the decision. On August 26, 2011, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court ruled that the FAA failed to take a "hard look" at the indirect environmental impacts of constructing a third runway at HIO. The case was then remanded back to the FAA. The Port subsequently prepared a supplemental environmental assessment, which was again challenged, but the Port and FAA proceeded to construct the runway before the appeal could be heard by the Court.

Oregon Aviation Watch firmly believes that the Port, FAA and State of Oregon did the community a grave disservice by constructing the runway before awaiting the Court's decision especially since there is no democratic avenue within the State of Oregon to voice legitimate concerns. Though the Port of Portland Board of Commissioners lays claim to municipality status, its members are appointed by the Governor, thus it is the only municipality in the State with no elected representation. In the absence of executive and legislative branch advocacy on behalf of residents regarding the significant public health, environmental, and livability impacts caused by aviation activity, impacted residents are left with no choice but to seek judicial remedy in the higher courts. That non-elected Port Commissioners, the FAA and the State of Oregon colluded in circumventing the legal process, speaks volumes about the lack of democratic principles regarding Oregon's aviation policy.


[1] Hillsboro Aero Academy website.

[2] EPA Memorandum from Marion Hoyer and Meredith Pedde to the Lead NAAQS Docket EPA-HQOAR-2006-0735. (11/8/10). Pg. 2-3. Available on-line at

[3] Hillsboro Airport Parallel Runway 12L/30R. Draft Environmental Assessment. Volume 2 Appendices. Prepared for Port of Portland by CH2MHILL. (October 2009). Pg. C3 1-2.

[4] Hillsboro Airport Parallel Runway 12L/30R. Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment. Appendix E - Air Quality Technical Memo. Prepared for Port of Portland by Barrilleaux, J. and Dowlin R. (3/15/13). Pg. 9-11.

[5] Criteria Air Pollutants. EPA. Available on-line at

[6] Noise Sources and Their Measurement. 2.2.2 Transportation Noise Community Health Noise Guidelines, edited by Berglund, B, Lindvall T., Schwela, D. World Health Organization. (1999). Available online at

[7] Hagler, Louis. Summary of Adverse Health Effects of Noise Pollution: Based on the World Health Guideline for Community Noise. Available online at

Hillsboro Airport - Aviation Fueled Lead Pollution

August 6, 2016

On July 27, 2016 the Hillsboro Tribune published an opinion piece entitled Officials Fail to Lead Charge, Reluctantly Acknowledged Air Pollution Problem by Oregon Aviation Watch Vice-President Jim Lubischer MD on lead pollution at the Hillsboro Airport. The full text of the article can be accessed at the following Hillsboro Tribune link: Officials Fail to Lead Charge, Reluctantly Acknowledged Air Pollution Problem.

As stated in the article:

"Hillsboro Airport is the largest facility source of lead pollution in Oregon, with essentially all of this lead pollution a result of intrastate flight training activity. The CDC has stated, 'all nonessential uses of lead should be eliminated,' and 'no level of lead in a child's blood can be specified as safe.' Hillsboro's flight training airport continues to pollute our air with lead. Sadly, neither the Port of Portland or our elected officials are 'leading' any charge to protect our children from breathing air tainted with this potent neurotoxin."

Dr. Lubischer's comments were in response to a 7/7/16 article by Hillsboro Tribune reporter Travis Loose which is available at Emissions from airport not only lead-health risk.

Aerotropolis News - Instanbul, Jeju, Taouuan, Kulon Progo, Mexico City

July 30, 2016

Below is the most recent update from the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM) chronicling the displacement of residents, disruption to existing communities, human rights violations, destruction of the environment and ecological devastation that often accompanies airport development projects around the globe.

Oregon Aviation Watch appreciates and supports GAAM's efforts to raise awareness and address the many negative impacts of the aviation industry throughout the world.

Dear friends and colleagues,

Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM) continues its work to research 'airport city' projects and support local communities opposing these schemes. Below is an update of come recent developments.

GAAM has a YouTube channel which we hope will be a useful resource. We have created two playlists:

Aviation expansion - resisting displacement
has examples of communities all over the world resisting displacement by airport and aerotropolis projects.
Aerotropolis videos
a compilation of videos promoting aerotropolis projects, giving insight into the scale and strategic significance of what is planned.

In May GAAM activists Rose Bridger and Anita Pleumarom made a solidarity visit to Istanbul to support the campaign against the city's third airport, a gigantic aerotropolis. During the visit a video was made which documents a small part of the destruction of forests, lakes and farmland: Istanbul's third airport - an ecocide megaproject. The video has been translated into Turkish: İstanbul3.Havalimanı. Bir Ekokırım Mega Projesi.

The case of Taoyuan Aerotropolis, for which land expropriation has begun, threatening thousands of people with displacement, was presented at the East Asia Tribunal on Evictions held in Taipei at the beginning of July.

Since 2012, residents of the coastal farmland in Kulon Progo, near Yogyakarta, Indonesia, have resisted land acquisition for an airport, and an aerotropolis around the airport is planned. On 16th February 2016 residents refusing to cooperate with boundary making for Kulon Progo airport were viciously attacked by the Indonesian policy and army. The Asian Human Rights Commission issued an Urgent Case Appeal and people can show support by sending an appeal letter.

Residents of five villages in the South Korean island of Jeju are resisting an airport and 'Air City'. An article in The Ecologist includes photos of protests: Jeju Islanders resist airport megaproject

An article about the planned new Mexico City airport and aerotropolis looks at the lengthy history of this project, vigorously opposed by ejidos (communal landholders) and the current situation - Massive Mexico City airport would be a disaster. Nearly a decade after a brutal police raid on Atenco, the town that resisted the airport in 2001, surveyors accompanied by soldiers invaded communal farmland, but were repelled by residents. There is an online petition in support of the Atenco farmers and urging Mexico's President Peña Nieto to stop forcible land expropriation for the airport.

Please share GAAM material widely as there is insufficient information about, and a low level of awareness of, aerotropolis projects and the detrimental impacts on people and the environment.

Yours truly,
Rose Bridger, for the GAAM coordinating team

Oregon Aviation Watch Urges Oregon Department of Justice to Investigate Aviation Lead Emissions

Miki Barnes, LCSW
President, Oregon Aviation Watch
July 7, 2016

In a letter dated June 29, 2016, Oregon Aviation Watch requested that the Oregon Department of Justice conduct an investigation of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Port of Portland (Port) regarding aviation lead emissions generated by the Hillsboro Airport and other airports located in Washington County. The rationale for taking this action is summarized below. The full text of the petition is available at Oregon Department of Justice Petition to Investigate Lead Emissions.


A review of Port and DEQ documents reveals major discrepancies and inconsistencies in the airborne lead concentrations estimated by these agencies. There are also indications that the amount of lead released into the air by aviation activity was underestimated. The bulleted items below summarize the reasons Oregon Aviation Watch submitted this petition. Please see the individual subheadings in the full text of the document on these topics for more detailed information and citations.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified the Hillsboro Airport (HIO) as the largest facility source of lead emissions in Oregon.
  • HIO ranks 21st in the nation among nearly 20,000 airports in lead emissions. According to Port estimates, HIO released 0.7 tons per year (tpy) of lead into the air in 2007 during the Landing and Take-Off (LTO) mode of flight. The Port forecasts that these emissions will increase to 0.8 tpy by 2016 and 0.9 tpy by 2021.
  • HIO came into existence as a grassy airstrip in 1928. Forty years later, the Port of Portland assumed ownership, yet in the nearly half century it has operated this facility it has never measured lead in the soil or air in the vicinity of this airport.
  • Neither the Port nor DEQ has ever actually measured lead air levels at HIO or any other airport in Washington County. The emissions reported by these agencies are based solely on estimates.
  • The evidence suggests that HIO air lead levels may be higher than current estimates reflect.
  • There is a significant discrepancy in the time the Port factored in for the Landing and Take-Off (LTO) mode of flight. The Port estimated 10 minutes whereas the EPA factors in 16 minutes. The Port offered no explanation for why it chose a shorter LTO phase.
  • Neither the Port nor DEQ factored in pre-flight engine run-ups in their estimates even though the EPA has described run-ups as "the most important contributor to peak air Pb [lead] concentrations" at and in the vicinity of an airport.
  • DEQ did not factor cruise phase lead emissions into their Portland Air Toxics Solutions (PATS) study model. According to the EPA, based on 2008 estimates, an additional 5.3 tons of lead was released in Oregon when aircraft were flying above 3,000 feet. In light of the significant amount of flight activity that occurs in Washington County, there is a high likelihood that much of the cruise phase lead emissions are impacting Washington County residents.
  • In 2005 DEQ concluded that air concentrations of lead in the vicinity of the Hillsboro Airport exceeded the Clean Air Act's National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). Subsequently, the Port, which owns HIO, commissioned a study (CDM Study) that concluded air concentrations of lead in the vicinity of HIO did not exceed the NAAQS. Oregon Aviation Watch (OAW) questions why DEQ estimates were discarded and replaced by the airport owner's estimates. OAW is also concerned about the exclusion of public participation and input in the CDM study as well as the lack of peer review. It is worth noting that the study does not include the names of the CDM consultants who performed and carried out the study. Moreover, no specific authors were identified in the CDM study.
  • Following the Port's CDM study, DEQ withdrew its initial findings and removed lead from DEQ's Portland Air Toxics Solution (PATS) list of toxins. Notably the CDM Study did not include ground "run-up" lead emissions. The Port explained that the EDMS model used for the CDM Study estimates "is not enabled to calculate run-up emissions." An EPA methodology for estimating lead emissions during the run-up mode was available prior to the completion of the CDM study, yet the Port evidently chose to ignore this information.
  • The 2005 DEQ PATS lead study only included 13 airports even though the EPA identified more than 65 airports listed as facility sources of lead in the 3-county study area (Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas Counties) and an additional 26 in two of the bordering jurisdictions (Columbia and Clark Counties). Data from the neighboring jurisdictions is included because the DEQ factored in airports from Columbia County (Scappoose Industrial Airpark) and Clark County (Pearson Field and Grove Field Airport) in the PATS study. Per the EPA, Scappoose and Pearson are the top facility sources of lead emissions in their respective counties. Grove Field is the second largest source of lead emissions in Clark County.
  • Given the deficiencies inherent in the way the Port and DEQ arrived at their lead estimates, Oregon Aviation Watch believes there are credible reasons to seek a third party objective analysis based on actual monitoring as opposed to agency estimates.
  • The EPA is currently engaged in a study of 17 airports in an effort to determine the concentration of lead emissions at general aviation airports. Evidence obtained from the EPA suggests that the FAA is relocating run-up activities away from EPA monitors in an attempt to downplay the contribution of run-ups at airports. The inconsistencies in how and where monitors were placed at the various airports brings into question the validity and reliability of the study.

Oregon Aviation Watch is shocked by U.S. Department of Justice, FAA and Port assertions that these agencies are under no obligation to address HIO lead emissions unless and until emission levels reach a de minimis threshhold of 25 tons. The agencies point to EPA regulations to justify their rationale. Lead is known to be toxic at miniscule levels. The Centers for Disease Control has determined that there is no safe level of lead in a child's blood. These findings suggest that it is morally and ethically imperative that government agencies immediately cease their cavalier policy of relying on inhumane, inadequate and antiquated regulations in the interest of promoting aviation interests while willfully compromising the health, well-being, and livability of area residents.

Oregon Aviation Watch also questions Port and DEQ support for reliance on conventional industry practices as opposed to environmental standards for measuring lead emissions. It has become abundantly clear in recent months that DEQ's policy of tacitly accepting industry conventions on behalf of major polluters has led to frighteningly high levels of exposure to lead and other toxic pollutants throughout the Portland metropolitan region.

Because of the serious and dire nature of this situation, Oregon Aviation Watch is seeking an Oregon Department of Justice investigation into this matter.

Entrenched Government Policies Promote and Rationalize Aviation Lead Pollution

Miki Barnes, LCSW
President, Oregon Aviation Watch
June 27, 2016

Oregon Aviation Watch released its first article on aviation lead pollution five years ago, on July 4, 2011. Though it is now well known that according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documentation, the Port of Portland (Port) owned and operated Hillsboro Airport (HIO) is the largest facility source of lead pollution in Oregon,[1] close to a ton per year, not a single government agency has ever initiated a site specific program to measure air quality around HIO for lead and other toxic emissions. In this regard, it appears that the Governor appointed, Senate approved Port of Portland Board of Commissioners receives a special waiver allowing them to poison the environment, erode livability and compromise the health of area residents.

The Port has been aided and abetted in shirking its responsibility by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the City of Hillsboro. A thorough investigation might well reveal other players. The Port has historically dragged its feet on measuring and monitoring actual HIO lead levels, choosing instead to rely on estimation methods that are technically flawed. The DEQ and the FAA, supposedly the regulatory agencies overseeing the situation, have encouraged this behavior, even adopting the results of the offending polluter's own privately-commissioned study in lieu of an unbiased, objective third party analysis.

Alarmingly, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) at HIO has never been performed, even though over the course of its 86 year history HIO has expanded from a grassy airstrip located on 100 acres to a 900 acre airport with three runways. A review of Environmental Protection Agency, Port and FAA documentation reveals that during this same time frame HIO has become one of the biggest facility sources of a host of air toxins, including lead, in the region.[2]

Health Impacts of Lead

Lead is a pernicious neurotoxin and probable carcinogen. An extensive body of literature now links elevated blood lead levels, even in very low amounts, with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a disorder that can result in devastating effects on children, their families and society. Lead toxicity is also associated with conduct and antisocial personality disorder, an increase in violent behavior, birth defects, miscarriages and a host of other negative impacts.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has warned that "No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected."[3] According to the EPA,

"...lead can adversely affect the nervous system, kidney function, immune system, reproductive and developmental systems and the cardiovascular system. Lead exposure also affects the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. The lead effects most commonly encountered in current populations are neurological effects in children and cardiovascular effects (e.g., high blood pressure and heart disease) in adults. Infants and young children are especially sensitive to even low levels of lead, which may contribute to behavioral problems, learning deficits and lowered IQ."[4]

Oregon Aviation Watch Challenges Third Runway Expansion at HIO

In 2014, due to concerns about already high levels of lead emissions and other pollutants as well as noise, Oregon Aviation Watch appealed a Port of Portland/FAA decision to construct a third runway at the Hillsboro Airport, an expansion that has the potential to nearly double operations at this facility. Arguments presented in the legal briefs submitted by the FAA, U.S. Department of Justice, and the Port of Portland reveal the degree to which federal and state agencies collude with major polluters such as HIO.

An 11/4/14 brief signed by Maggie Smith from the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, argues that according to OAR 340-218-0020 sources of lead pollution in Oregon are only required to obtain an Air Contaminant Discharge Permit "if their lead emissions exceed 10 tons/year."[5] If this is indeed an accurate assessment of Oregon's regulations then it should come as no surprise that the greater Portland Metropolitan area is in the midst of a major environmental crisis, in part due to high lead levels.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the FAA via Smith maintain that, "The EPA has set a de minimis level for lead at 25 tons/year," and asserts that the 0.1 ton per year increase forecast for HIO "comes nowhere close to this threshold." To further justify the USDOJ and FAA's position Smith states, "The EPA is the federal agency tasked with protecting air quality and establishing NAAQS [National Air Quality Standards]." She then proceeds to defer to the EPA's expertise on this matter.[6]

Sadly the USDOJ and FAA lightly brush aside HIO lead emissions without any serious evaluation of the potential effects on children:

"...the FAA fully considered the potential impacts of lead on children and reasonably concluded that any impact from the project would be well below the threshold for significance...the record demonstrates that these issues are well understood and have been thoroughly considered by the EPA whose guidance the FAA has followed"[7]

Needless to say, Oregon Aviation Watch vigorously disagrees with the above sited agency assertions. As noted by OAW attorney, Sean Malone,

"Respondents [U.S. Department of Justice, FAA, and Port of Portland] concede that the project could emit 200 pounds of lead in addition to the 1600 pounds emitted annually by 2016...Contrary to the Port's argument...200 pounds of lead is 'meaningful' and 'measurable,' and, under no circumstances, could 200 pounds of a neurotoxin measured in millionths of a gram be considered de minimis, especially in light of the negative and disproportionate effects on children."[8]

USDOJ, FAA and Port Rationalize Their Failure to Assess the Impact of HIO Lead Emissions

The USDOJ and FAA briefs also disavowed agency responsibility for evaluating the full impact of HIO lead emissions:

"...the Petitioners unreasonably conflate the impact of the project with the impact of the operation of Hillsboro Airport as a whole...the FAA was only required to evaluate the potential impact of construction of the runway, not operation of the entire airport."

In this way, the agencies sidestep all responsibility for monitoring the impact of releasing a ton of lead into the air each year. Their spurious arguments serve as a prime example of how government agencies systematically maneuver to justify and rationalize their indifference to the environment and the greater good.

Port of Portland Refuses to Provide Baseline Analysis of Lead

Lead is a toxin that is known to accumulate in the soil. Yet in response to concerns raised by Oregon Aviation Watch stressing the importance of obtaining baseline levels for lead dispersion and deposition, the Stoel Rives attorneys Beth Ginsberg and Jason Morgan, hired to represent the Port, claim "...there is no obligation to conduct a baseline analysis to satisfy NEPA [National Environmental Protection Act]...More specifically, there is no statutory or regulatory requirement to establish a 'baseline' as part of an EA" and further argue that the construction of the runway "has virtually no effect on the environment."[9] The Port's attorneys also contend that there is no evidence,

"..that 200 pounds of lead emitted into the atmosphere over the course of a year (and over a large geographic area) would have any meaningful (or even measurable) impact on lead levels in the soil. As the FAA explained, EPA set a de minimis emission level at 25 tons per year, below which 'no further analysis would be required.' The 200 pounds identified by Barnes is only 0.4% of EPA's de minimis threshold."[10]

In the end the Port wrote off these lead emissions as "virtually insignificant."[11] Apparently the Port believes that though HIO has pumped multiple tons of lead into the environment over the past 86 years and fully intends to continue releasing upwards of a ton per year for the foreseeable future, this has no significant impact on the environment. Like their counterparts at the FAA and USDOJ, the Port attorneys opted to ignore the 0.7 to 0.8 tpy already emitted by HIO on an annual basis.

In response to the Port's argument, Oregon Aviation Watch attorney, Sean Malone, pointed out that:

"Despite general aviation aircraft emitting lead for over 8 decades at HIO and above the City of Hillsboro, the FAA has never disclosed the environmental effects from aircraft operations. For that reason, disclosing the baseline for lead is essential to determining the total impact of indirect effects of lead dispersion and deposition in and around HIO and the City of Hillsboro, and this Court has required that agencies adequately disclose the baseline."[12]

Port of Portland Denies Lead Emission Impacts on Surrounding Community

According to the Port:

"'there is no industry accepted information to indicate that residents in the vicinity of Hillsboro Airport have been exposed to concentrations of lead from the aircraft that would cause 'the kinds of health impacts identified by Barnes.'"[13]

No mandated blood lead level testing has ever been done in the vicinity of HIO, nor has a Health Impact Assessment ever been performed. Thus, in the absence of any actual site specific lead monitoring at HIO, these statements are baseless. Given the seriousness of the situation, the pervasive failure to engage in health studies to measure lead emission impacts is indicative of the profound negligence exercised by elected officials as well as local, state and federal agencies. Would the Port's attorneys suggest that lead polluting industries such as Bullseye Glass, flight training companies and the Port of Portland set the standard? This is laughable. What is desperately needed is a non-biased, objective third party analysis of the situation. Ideally this would have been performed by DEQ, but in accord with their well established reputation for aligning with industry polluters, this has never been done.

The Port's attorneys also claim that actual measurements for lead

"...are not required by FAA's NEPA regulations and neither the EPA nor ODEQ has yet to require lead monitoring at Hillsboro because the nature of HIO (including total emissions, meteorology, and proximity to sources) does not create a significant potential for NAAQS violations."[14]

It is certainly curious in this regard that a small Portland manufacturing facility like Bullseye Glass, whose emission levels are not even included in the 2011 EPA National Emissions Inventory (NEI), has been found to contribute to elevated lead levels at a neighboring daycare center and as such has prompted the DEQ to place air monitors in the nearby vicinity and prohibit the use of lead in an uncontrolled furnace.[15]. Yet the Port, FAA and USDOJ insist that HIO, the largest facility source of lead in the entire state, has no significant impact. The fact that no government agency ever cared enough to measure lead emissions or mandate blood lead level testing does not mean there are none.

For the record, the Port has owned HIO for nearly a half century. During that time it has pursued a strategy of aggressive growth and expansion. The airport is now surrounded on three sides by residential neighborhoods. At no time in its 86 year history has HIO completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

City of Hillsboro Colludes with Port

It is worth noting at this juncture that in January of 2010, the City of Hillsboro passed an airport zoning ordinance, which, if implemented, would have further elevated aviation interests over and above everyone else. One condition of the zoning was to require developing property owners within more than a mile of HIO to sign an "avigation easement" forcing them to forfeit their rights to defend themselves from the negative impacts of aviation activity.

The zoning included a provision which gave the City on behalf of the Port "the right to subject the property to noise, vibrations, fumes, dust, and fuel particle emissions associated with normal aircraft activity." In other words, the ordinance was designed to allow the Port and the City to be held harmless for emissions of lead and other toxins onto the properties of neighboring landowners. In this regard, it appears that the Port and the City are for more invested in absolving themselves of all ethical, moral, and legal responsibility for protecting the community from toxic airport emissions. Thankfully, the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) found the zoning to be unconstitutional and issued a reversal.[15]


The arguments put forth by the government agencies discussed above are both disturbing and frightening. To blithely ignore the impact of dumping lead on a community in the absence of monitoring or safeguards certainly sheds light on how children were so wantonly poisoned via government-sponsored policies in Flint, Michigan and closer to home in Portland, Oregon. The lead contaminated drinking water in Portland Public Schools also illustrates the extent to which tax payer funded government agencies routinely compromise the health and well being of area residents. The HIO issue indicates that negligent policies of a similar magnitude run rampant throughout every level of government.

In the present situation, there appears to be a consortium of government agencies including but not necessarily limited to the U.S. Department of Justice, the FAA, EPA, Oregon DEQ, Port of Portland and the City of Hillsboro - all of whom seem more than willing to sweep under the rug, the glaring need for a comprehensive environmental review of the impact of the Hillsboro Airport. A full EIS is needed to determine if lead emissions and other toxins emitted by this facility pose a threat to the local community. Clearly the agencies and government entities cited above have demonstrated a commitment to advocating on behalf of the less than one-third of one percent of Oregon's population who train or engage in recreational or business flights out of HIO but none fulfill their obligation to the other 99 and two-thirds percent.

Oregon has reached a critical juncture. Instead of continuing to rationalize the widespread lead pollution caused by HIO and other Washington County airports, for the sake of current and future generations, all levels of government should take immediate, definitive steps to ameliorate this very serious problem.


[1] To review the 2011 EPA National Emissions Inventory on various pollutants go to the EPA NEI available on-line at From there scroll down to the Google Fusion and Maps table and click on the specific pollutant. When the data appears click on the blue tab to filter by state, county, facility type or other preferred option.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Update on Blood Lead Levels in Children. Lead: What Do Parents Need to Know to Protect Their Children? Centers for Disease Control. Available on-line at Accessed on 5/22/16.

[4] What are the Effects of Lead on Human Health. Basic Information About Lead Air Pollution. EPA website. Available on-line at

[5] Michelle Barnes, Et Al., v. The Federal Aviation Administration and The Port of Portland. In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. No. 14-71180. (11/4/14). Pg. 46-47. Available on-line at

[6] Ibid. Pg. 44.

[7] Ibid. Pg. 48.

[8] Michelle Barnes Et. Al. v the Federal Aviation Administration and Port of Portland. Petitioners' Reply Brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. No. 14-71180. (12/2/14). Pg. 5-7. Available on-line at

[9] Michelle Barnes, Et Al., v. The Federal Aviation Administration and Port of Portland. Port of Portland's Opposition Brief. In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. No. 14-71180. (11/17/14). Pg. 11. Available on-line at

[10] Ibid. Pg. 13.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Michelle Barnes Et. Al. v the Federal Aviation Administration and Port of Portland. Petitioners' Reply Brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. No. 14-71180. (12/2/14). Pg. 7-8. Available on-line at

[13] Michelle Barnes, Et Al., v. The Federal Aviation Administration and Port of Portland. Port of Portland's Opposition Brief. in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. No. 14-71180. (11/17/14). Pg. 24. Available on-line at

[14] Ibid. Pg. 25.

[15] DEQ and Bullseye Sign Agreement that Ensures State Oversight of Use of Hazardous Metals in Production, DEQ.(6/16/16). Available on-line at

[16] Michelle Barnes vs. City of Hillsboro LUBA No. 2010-011, Final Order. (June 30, 2010), Pg. 17. Available on-line at

DEQ Fails to Monitor HIO Lead Emissions

March 20, 2016

DEQ Spiraling Out of Control

Federal legislators, including Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, have expressed alarm over the public health emergency posed by findings of elevated levels of toxins in Portland's air. Two art glass manufacturers are now under investigation for their use of heavy metals and for polluting their surrounding neighborhoods with cadmium and arsenic. Soil tests also revealed lead in the vicinity of Cleveland High School.

The source of the cadmium and arsenic was traced to two art glass manufacturing companies - Bullseye in SE Portland and Uroboros in NE Portland. The concerns of the federal delegation are explained in a 2/12/16 letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, wherein they point out that these toxic emissions were in close proximity to densely populated residential communities and neighborhood schools. The legislators are now seeking assistance from the EPA in addressing the crisis. Their letter also raised concerns about the shortage of air quality monitors and advocated for increased monitoring, modeling and research.[1]

Despite the heightened level of concern triggered by this situation, high air toxic levels in the Portland Metropolitan region are hardly a new revelation. Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has known since at least 2005 that many pollutants in the area exceeded benchmark levels. Several years ago, the Coalition for a Livable Future (CLF) alerted the public to the severity of the issue when it identified a number of areas throughout the region as 'hotspots' due to "extremely high levels of air toxics, at more than 120 times above the benchmark level."[2] Per the CLF,

"...there are much larger areas, often surrounding these hotspots, with air toxic levels that are 81 to 120 times above the benchmarks. These include parts of Vancouver and Gresham as well as parts of northeast, northwest, and southwest Portland, part of Forest Grove, and a large area of Washington County between Tigard and Hillsboro."

CLF further noted that almost the entire greater Portland Metropolitan Region, including parts of Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas County, "has air toxics at levels that can cause adverse health effects."[3]

DEQ's Industry Cronyism Fuels Oregon's Policy of Government Sanctioned Pollution

The Oregon DEQ has recently come under a great deal of well-deserved criticism and scrutiny for its chronic failure to address toxic air emissions throughout the region. In the wake of this tumult the Director of DEQ, Dick Pedersen, and the DEQ Air Quality Manager, David Munro, announced their intent to resign.[4]

Oregonian reporter Steve Duin identified a key factor that contributed to DEQ's failure,

"The Department of Environmental Quality is still dependent on the industries it regulates, which - when I checked in 2009 - provide 70 percent of its funding."[5]

Due, in part, to its unsavory financial relationships with many of Oregon's most egregious polluters, DEQ has developed a reputation for ignoring and minimizing the very serious health impacts of toxic exposure perpetuated by their industrial business and corporate cronies.

Growing dissatisfaction with DEQ's performance recently prompted Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Multnomah County Commission Chair Deborah Kafoury to announce plans to explore the possibility of establishing a local air quality agency separate from DEQ and independent of state control.[6]

Metro Councilor, Bob Stacy has also voiced support for an alternative to DEQ,

"As the evidence mounts, it has become crystal clear to so many people in this city that DEQ has failed to protect public health. There are many reasons why this has happened. The industry it is supposed to regulate quite literally wrote the rules that apply to their polluting activities. And the agency's budget is largely paid for by the permits issued to these industries. The system is broken."[7]

DEQ Capitulates to Port of Portland on Hillsboro Airport Lead Pollution

Hillsboro Airport (HIO), the largest general aviation airport in the state, is also the largest facility source of lead emissions in Oregon. In 2007, the owner and operator of HIO, the Port of Portland (Port), estimated annual lead emissions of 0.7 tons per year during the landing and take-off (LTO) cycle of flight.[8] The Port is now forecasting that LTO lead emissions will increase to 0.9 tons by 2021.[9] HIO, which is ranked by the EPA as 21st in the nation out of nearly 20,000 U.S. airports in lead emissions[10], is located in Washington County. It is one of a number of lead polluting airports included within the Portland Air Toxic Solutions (PATS) study area.

According to DEQ, the Portland Air Toxics Solutions project was created "to work with local communities to develop air toxics reduction strategies for the Portland region, including portions of Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas Counties."[11] Unfortunately due to DEQ's history of advocacy on behalf of industries intent on increasing rather than reducing emissions, no significant "reduction strategies" have been established.

When the PATS maps were initially released in 2005,[12] DEQ found that lead emissions in the vicinity of the Hillsboro Airport exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) established by the Clean Air Act.[13] In some areas, these emissions were twice the federal standard yet nothing substantive was done to reduce the emissions. Instead, DEQ gave the Port of Portland, the biggest lead polluter in Oregon, free rein to counter their findings. The map below is the original version released with the PATS study in 2005, showing a red hotspot over Hillsboro.

PATS 2005 Estimated Lead Concentrations[14]

The cozy relationship between DEQ and the Port of Portland (a quasi government agency with both municipality and corporate status) serves as a prime example of how DEQ acquiesces to industry at the expense of peoples' health. The Port of Portland had a vested business and economic interest in denying DEQ's findings. Towards this end it hired a private consulting firm, CDM, to perform a separate study. Please note that the Port of Portland imposes a flowage fee on every gallon of fuel sold at HIO thus profits from the sale of toxic fuels. The Port also receives money from the various airport businesses that dispense and utilize leaded fuel. Despite this glaring conflict of interest, DEQ allowed the agency responsible for these high lead readings to perform its own study - an arrangement that in many respects is tantamount to allowing a thief to serve as the judge and jury at his own trial. The very nature of this arrangement negated any possibility of an unbiased, third party objective analysis.

The 9/1/10 Hillsboro Airport Lead Study,[15] refuting the exceedances, was performed without peer review or public input, nonetheless DEQ capitulated to these findings. Neither the Port nor DEQ engaged in any actual monitoring. Instead, both agencies relied on assumptions, estimates and computer modeling. Neither the Port nor DEQ modeled or measured ground run-up pre-flight engine checks, a procedure that the EPA has identified as "the most important contributor to peak air Pb [lead] concentrations."[16] Though DEQ is responsible for aircraft emissions that occur on the ground, it does not appear that this agency modeled or monitored ground run-up activity at HIO or any other Oregon airport.

It is troubling that the Port and DEQ seemed intent upon obfuscating the issue instead of engaging in a responsible effort to determine the extent to which lead pollution generated by HIO poses a risk to children, unborn fetuses and others routinely impacted by this airport. After all, it is now common knowledge that lead is a pernicious neurotoxin and probable carcinogen that, even in very small amounts, may contribute to the development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a condition that can result in devastating effects on children, their families and society. Lead has also been linked to reduced IQ, conduct disorder, increased violence, cardiovascular problems, kidney ailments, miscarriages, possibly dementia and a host of other serious health effects.

In response to the study, DEQ withdrew its initial findings, aligned with the Port and issued a second map asserting that the lead exceedances in the vicinity of the airport had disappeared. Based on the Port's study, lead was subsequently removed from the DEQ PATS list of air toxins that exceed benchmark standards. As a result lead is no longer included as an air toxic of concern in the PATS study maps released by DEQ in January of 2011.[17]

Below is the lead map released by DEQ in 2010 retracting lead exceedance findings in the vicinity of HIO based on the Port's study. The Hillsboro hotspot has disappeared.

PATS 2017 Estimated Lead Concentrations[18]

Per DEQ, "The CDM Hillsboro Airport Lead Study used a model that is different and more complex than the model DEQ used for the Portland Air Toxics Solutions project. DEQ has not conducted an analysis to compare the study to its Portland Air Toxics Solutions model."[19]

To reiterate, DEQ essentially allowed the biggest lead polluter in the entire state to write its own ticket. Does it really come as a surprise that the Port of Portland, the owner and operator of the airport, which profits from the sale of leaded fuel, would minimize the impact? And is it any wonder that the public has completely lost faith in the ability of DEQ to address the environmental health crisis that exists throughout the region?

Oregon's Airports Promote Government Sponsored Lead Pollution

Two government agencies are responsible for a substantial amount of the lead pollution in the state. The largest facility source lead polluters in Oregon are, first and foremost, the three airports owned and operated by the Port of Portland. At 0.7 tons per year, HIO is the biggest offender. In Multnomah County, Troutdale Airport is the number one facility source of lead and Portland International (PDX) ranks third. These three airports, combined, pump well over a ton of lead into the air each year during the landing and take-off phase of flight. As noted earlier neither the Port nor DEQ have ever bothered to model or monitor the lead emissions from the run-up phase.

The 28 airports owned and operated by the Oregon State Department of Aviation also contribute to lead pollution. EPA estimates indicate that the combined lead emissions from these airports totaled 0.59 tons in 2011 during the landing and take-off cycle of flight. This does not include lead emissions released during ground run-up checks or the cruise phase of flight. Based on 2008 aviation operations in Oregon, the EPA estimated that in that year alone, aviation activity was responsible for spewing an additional 5.3 tons of lead into Oregon's air during the cruise phase of flight.

These figures indicate that Oregon's government-subsidized aviation sector emits more lead in the state than any other industry. The above numbers do not include the lead emissions from the other, more than 400 public and private airports located in Oregon - a significant percentage of which are heavily subsidized with federal and state money.

The numbers also reveal that the State of Oregon has a history of looking the other way and ignoring health impacts while allowing the aviation sector to spew close to 10 tons of lead, perhaps more, annually into our air, soil and water.

In recent weeks there have been many accusations about DEQ's history of pandering to the demands of the corporate and industrial sector while neglecting the greater good of the community. The Port of Portland/DEQ relationship, wherein the state agency responsible for protecting the community from toxic emissions allowed the biggest lead polluter in the entire state to commission its own "behind closed doors study," illustrates how DEQ has failed to protect the community by conceding to corporate and industry interests while compromising the health of the community.

HIO Source of Numerous Air Toxins In Addition to Lead

In addition to lead, HIO is a major facility source of an array of other air toxics. Per the 2011 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Emissions Inventory (NEI), HIO is the largest facility source of acrolein, 1,3 butadiene, ethyl benzene, and acetaldehyde in Washington County. All of these air toxins are listed in the PATS study as exceeding benchmark levels. PATS recommended reducing these pollutants by 81 to 88 % depending on the specific toxin. HIO is also the largest facility source of formaldehyde in Washington County which is also one of the 15 toxins identified in the PATS study as exceeding benchmark levels. PATS recommended reducing this air pollutant by 10 %.[20] Notwithstanding the serious health risks associated with these air toxics, no efforts have been initiated by DEQ, the Port of Portland, or the State of Oregon to protect the public from these emissions.

HIO also generates a number of pollutants not included in the PATS study. In response to Clean Air Act requirements, the EPA established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six "criteria" pollutants determined to pose a danger to public health and the environment. These pollutants are lead, carbon monoxide, particulate matter (includes PM 2.5 and PM 10), ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.[21] According to the 2011 EPA NEI, HIO is the largest facility source of elemental carbon particulate matter 2.5 and carbon monoxide and the second largest source of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter 2.5 emissions in Washington County.[22]

Regardless of documented evidence about the air toxics associated with HIO, the Port continues to grow and expand this facility. More than 84 years ago, HIO started out as a grassy airstrip. Since that time it has grown into the busiest general aviation airport in the state. Despite this exponential growth over the years, an Environmental Impact Study has never been done. Instead the Port and FAA frequently rely on unsubstantiated assertions and poorly documented studies to promote and rationalize the multiple expansion projects that have occurred at this facility. Sadly, the EPA, DEQ and the Oregon Legislature have refused to intervene on behalf of the environment and public health to address this situation.

Protect the Community from Toxic Assault

In light of the serious health impacts associated with lead and the other air toxics emitted by HIO, immediate steps must be taken to reduce aviation activity at this facility. Notably, the vast majority of operations at this airport are related to a flight training school primarily owned by out of state investment firms which primarily train students from foreign countries. Open, public, scientific engagement needs to be initiated to accurately determine the health and environmental impacts of this airport.

The toxic nature of the region's air has been known for years, at least since 2005 when the Portland Air Toxic maps were initially released, yet DEQ has done nothing to reduce these levels. Efforts by Oregon Aviation Watch to communicate with DEQ about concerns related to HIO via face to face meetings, phone calls and emails have failed to address our concerns. As stated by Hillsboro resident and OAW board member, Blaine Ackley, "We had meetings with the DEQ that went nowhere. We have sent emails that go unanswered and we make phone calls that receive no response. This is an agency spiraling out of control and unresponsive to the public that it is supposed to serve."

How long will DEQ, the state legislature, and local representatives continue to pretend that business as usual trumps the long-term health and well being of the community? As so aptly stated by Rep Rob Nosse at a 2/23/16 hearing in Salem, "A business can't poison the community it operates in and expect the community to support it."[23] Yet the Hillsboro Airport has been getting away with this for a very long time.


[1] Wyden, R., Merkley, J., Blumenauer, E. Letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. (2/17/16). Available on-line at

[2] Air Quality. Coalition for a Livable Future website. Available at

[3] Ibid.

[4] Profita, Cassandra. Oregon Department Of Environmental Quality Director Dick Pedersen Steps Down. OPB. (3/1/16). Available on-line at

[5] Duin, Steve. The Alarm Over Air Toxins in Southeast Portland. OregonLive. (2/6/16). Available on-line at

[6] Kullgren, Ian. Disgusted Residents Sound Off on Portland Air Pollution. OregonLive. (2/23/16). Available on-line at

[7] Stacey, Bob. Portland Area Needs Its Own Air Quality Board (Opinion). OregonLive. (3/16/16) Available on-line at

[8] Hillsboro Airport Parallel Runway 12L/30R. Draft Environmental Assessment. Volume2 Appendices. Prepared for Port of Portland by CH2MHILL. (October 2009). Pg. C3 1-2.

[9] Hillsboro Airport Parallel Runway 12L/30R. Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment. Appendix E - Air Quality Technical Memo. Prepared for Port of Portland by Barrilleaux, J. and Dowlin R. (3/15/13). Pg. 9-11.

[10] EPA Memorandum from Marion Hoyer and Meredith Pedde to the Lead NAAQS Docket EPA-HQOAR-2006-0735. (11/8/10). Pg. 2-3. Available on-line at

[11] Air Quality. Air Toxics. Portland Air Toxics Solutions. ODEQ. Available on-line at

[12] Portland Air Toxics Solutions Project Modeled Lead Data and the Hillsboro Airport. Air Quality Planning. DEQ-11-AQ-051.(Last updated 1/20/12 by Sarah Armitage) Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Available on-line at

[13] Maps and a discussion on these exceedances is included in a 4/4/12 article by Oregon Aviation Watch. Available on-line at

[14] Portland Air Toxics Solutions Project Modeled Lead Data and the Hillsboro Airport. Air Quality Planning. DEQ-11-AQ-051.(Last updated 1/20/12 by Sarah Armitage) Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Available on-line at

[15] Hillsboro Airport Parallel Runway 12L/30R Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment. Prepared by Port of Portland for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Vol. 1 Appendix F. (February 2014). Available on-line at

[16] Development and Evaluation of an Air Quality Modeling Approach for Lead Emissions from Piston-Engine Aircraft Operating on Leaded Aviation Gasoline. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA-420-R-10-007. (February 2010). Pg.. 71. Available on-line at

[17] PATS 2017 Pollutants Modeling Study Maps. Air Quality: Air Toxics. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. (1/25/11). Available on-line at

[18] Portland Air Toxics Solutions Project Modeled Lead Data and the Hillsboro Airport. Air Quality Planning. DEQ-11-AQ-051.(Last updated 1/20/12 by Sarah Armitage) Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

[19] Portland Air Toxics Solutions Project Modeled Lead Data and the Hillsboro Airport. Air Quality Planning. DEQ-11-AQ-051.(Last updated 1/20/12 by Sarah Armitage) Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Available on-line at

[20] PATS 2017 Pollutants Modeling Study Maps. Air Quality: Air Toxics. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. (1/25/11). Available on-line at

[21] National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). EPA. Available on-line at

[22] 2011 National Emissions Inventory. Environmental Protection Agency.

[23] Kullgren, Ian. Disgusted Residents Sound Off on Portland Air Pollution. OregonLive. (2/23/16). Available on-line at

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