PORTLAND, Ore.-- New maps reveal two more toxic hot spots in Portland. The discovery comes as lawmakers push for a change in pollution laws.
"These revelations about toxic emissions may fall into a fall into a regulatory loophole that's the size of a lunar crater," said Senator Ron Wyden.
Sen. Ron Wyden, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Earl Blumenauer talked with EPA officials and scientists with the U.S. Forest Service to learn more about toxic heavy metals detected in Portland neighborhoods, as well as the lack of regulations when it comes to those contaminants released into the air.
Earlier this month, air tests around Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland showed levels of arsenic and cadmium well above their safety benchmarks.
Now, new maps reveal other heavy metal hotspots in Portland.
They show high levels of lead in an area along North Columbia Boulevard and high levels of potentially cancer causing nickel in Southeast Portland's Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood.
Scientists say the nickel levels are five times higher than the safety benchmark.
Faye Hopper lives in that neighborhood and had no idea there was a potential health risk.
"I hadn't heard about it at all so it seems like they should notify people of that," she said.
The Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood is right next to Precision Castparts, which in 2013 topped a list of the most toxic air polluters in the country.
"We will evaluate any new information as it becomes available. Please note that substantially all of the nickel used at PCC Structurals in Portland is in low-toxicity alloyed forms," Precision Castparts said.
The maps are based on levels of nickel found in moss in the area.
The U.S. Forest Service scientists who conducted the study said what's in the moss is likely also in the air.
"What we're seeing is that moss does a very, very good job at capturing what's in the air," said Dr. Geoffrey Donovan, who conducted the test. "So yes, it's a very good indicator of what pollutants are in the air."
So what is that regulatory loophole?
Right now the regulations apply only to facilities that use the toxics continually. Those that use it in batches, not every day, are exempt.
The director of Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality said that is going to change.
"My commitment to Governor Brown is that the Oregon DEQ will start its rule-making process to cover this regulatory gap that exists," said Dick Pederson.
The EPA has also begun an investigation into updating its regulations.
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