PORTLAND, Ore. – A creosote plant at the center of odor complaints in the Columbia River Gorge has agreed to settle a $20 million lawsuit for $1.25 million.
AmeriTies agreed to pay $1.25 million to more than 100 residents in The Dalles who alleged odors from the plant caused damage to their properties. AmeriTies also agreed to spend at least $250,000 to improve the plant’s environmental performance and reduce odor emissions.
The settlement is scheduled to be finalized on August 28. As part of the settlement, AmeriTies denies it violated the law or contributed to residents’ health problems due to the plant's odors. Anyone who agrees to the settlement waives their rights to future litigation.
Some residents are considering not taking the lawsuit, which after lawyer's fees and other costs may net each participant about $1,000.
"Its really sad to me that they [Amerities] think that it’s OK to pay us off in such a small amount when people in the town have been suffering for almost 100 years from this and really no money can buy the pain and suffering that people have been through in The Dalles," said suit participant Rachel Najjar.
AmeriTies treats wooden railroad ties using creosote, a coal-tar byproduct that contains several known and suspected carcinogens including naphthalene, a volatile organic compound that produces a strong mothball-like smell.
Residents for years have complained to the Department of Environmental Quality about odors and health concerns from the plant’s emissions. AmeriTies agreed to implement some odor-reducing measures in 2016 but odor complaints have not subsided.
AmeriTies has operated in The Dalles for nearly a century. The plant operates on a Superfund site and produces 3,000 – 4,500 railroad ties a day for Union Pacific Railroad. AmeriTies uses creosote as a pesticide to increase the longevity of railroad ties.
AmeriTies operates well within its DEQ air quality permit requirements and could emit about three times as many VOCs as it currently does and stay within the legal limits. The plant employs about 50 people in The Dalles.
Read past KGW reports on Amerities: