Gov. Brown orders Bullseye Glass to stop using lead after high levels detected at day care

Bullseye Glass Co. (KATU File Photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. - The detection of high levels of lead in the air at a Southeast Portland day care center has prompted Gov. Kate Brown to order the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to require Bullseye Glass to stop using lead and eight other metals in its production process.

The day care center, CCLC on Southeast Gladstone, is just down the street from the glass company, which has come under intense public scrutiny after air monitoring stations detected high levels of cadmium and arsenic around the company earlier this year.

Now, according to the governor's office, air monitors have found lead levels nearly three times above a "24-hour benchmark." The air-quality data that prompted the cease-and-desist order was captured Monday, May 9.

Brown's office said the results "showed an immediate, short-term health risk."

"Public health and safety are my highest priorities," Brown said in a new release. "This swift action and public notification will help ensure the wellbeing of local residents who live and work in the area. Clean air is vital to the health and safety of our community."

The order requires Bullseye to stop the use of lead, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium compounds, cobalt, manganese, nickel, and selenium in uncontrolled furnaces for 10 days. The governor can decide to extend the cease-and-desist order after the 10 days has expired.

During an evening news conference at the Oregon Health Authority's operations center in Portland, DEQ's Leah Feldon said the company can use the metals but only in controlled furnaces. Bullseye Glass has a device to control furnaces, called a baghouse, but Keith Johnson, who's working with DEQ, said it is currently offline.

"They experienced what they thought were some issues with it and took it offline," he said, adding the company plans to get the baghouse back online.

According to Brian Boling, also of DEQ, the agency collects data from the four air monitors around Bullseye Glass and processes it on a continuous basis. The May 9 data was processed Wednesday, May 18. Boling said he was notified at about 7 a.m. Thursday by a chemist that high lead levels had been detected that day.

"We immediately started our mechanics to let it be known to our partners and take action on it," he said.

The Oregon Health Authority and the DEQ notified the governor via letter, asking her to take action.

Feldon called the governor's action, "to my knowledge, unprecedented."

David Farrer, with OHA, expressed concern about what he said was a pattern that was developing with Bullseye Glass.

"This finding is part of a pattern of unpredictable emissions from this facility," he said, adding that that was the reason the order included the other metals besides lead.

Jae Douglas, the environmental health director for Multnomah County, said the county will be offering lead screening at the day care center. Screening will also be available Friday at the Southeast Health Center at 33rd and Powell from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Young children are especially susceptible to the effects of lead exposure, which can cause learning disabilities and other health problems.

Colleen Moran, with KinderCare Education, the parent company of CCLC, told KATU in a statement that the day care center was "grateful for the immediate action the Governor took" and "we are also doing what we can to ensure the health and safety of the children, families, and staff at our center."

In a statement to KATU, Bullseye Glass Vice President Jim Jones said it received the cease-and-desist order just minutes before the news media was notified.

"This is a substantial impact to our business, along with everything else we have endured over these past few months," he said. "We are surprised and concerned that DEQ is taking the position that a single data point is sufficient to justify issuing a Cease and Desist Order."

In February, the glass company announced it would no longer use arsenic.

Several neighbors of Bullseye have filed a $1 billion class-action lawsuit against the company, asking it to pay for any current and future medical costs.

Bullseye Glass's Response:

We received the cease and desist order a minutes before it was sent out to the press.

Currently we have one baghouse that controls one furnace. We are in the process of installing a larger baghouse system that controls multiple furnaces, but that system will not be completed until the beginning of August. This is a substantial impact to our business, along with everything else we have endured over these past few months.

We are surprised and concerned that DEQ is taking the position that a single data point is sufficient to justify issuing a Cease and Desist Order.

We hope DEQ is aware there has been construction activity with earth moving equipment at the day care center approximately 25 ft. from the air monitor station. The equipment is currently in place, sitting next to mounds of soil.

DEQ has now added cobalt, manganese, nickel and selenium to the list of raw materials that we cannot use even though air monitoring data over the past few months has not showing any significant concerns with these materials.

Jim Jones, VP of Bullseye Glass Co.

Watch OHA's and DEQ's Thursday night news conference:

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