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Class action lawsuit filed against Bullseye Glass

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PHOTO COURTESY OF CASSANDRA PROFITA, OPB/EARTHFIX  - A worker at Bullseye Glass, which makes artistic and architectural colored glass in Southeast Portland. The company has agreed to halt its use of arsenic, cadmium and chromium after carcinogenic levels of emissions were detected near its Southeast Portland plant.Seven Southeast Portland residents have filed a class action lawsuit against Bullseye Glass Company, the glass manufacturing company accused of spewing toxic levels of heavy metals into the neighborhood's air.

The 18-page lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court accuses Bullseye Glass of using “the neighborhood’s air and backyards as a dumping ground for the arsenic, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and other toxins it sends up its smokestacks.” It says the company has been polluting the neighborhood with “a wide variety of chemicals to color or process the glass” since it first opened in 1974.

“The toxic emissions… [threaten] the health of people living and working in Southeast Portland,” the lawsuit alleges. “While some of the harms from this exposure are manifest today, others may remain latent or undetected for years, leaving those exposed… to deal with health impacts today and into the distant future.”

You can read the suit here.

The suit was filed as public complaints continue over high levels of heavy metals and potentially dangerous pollutants found throughout the city. Activists say state regulators have known Portland's air was hazardous for many years but have been slow to identify and regulate the sources of pollution. Bullseye was identified as a potential source after high levels of arsenic were discovered in moss near the facility for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The suit wants the company to permanently stop the use of arsenic, cadmium and chromium in its glass production processes. Production with the chemicals could only resume if it first installs adequate emissions controls equipment. And the wants the company to pay for urine and blood tests for those living within 1.5 miles of the facility. A request for compensation of attorneys’ fees and costs is also included.

Bullseye has already agreed to indefinitely suspend the use of cadmium, arsenic and chromium in its operations. Compnay President Dan Schwoerer has repeatedly said his company has always operated in compliance with Oregon Department of Environmental Quality guidelines regarding metal emissions. But according to the suit, the facility is too small to fall under the federal Clean Air Act, making it exempt from national emissions standards.

“In fact, Bullseye privately lobbied the United States Environmental Protection Agency to create an exemption in Clean Air Act regulations so that it would not need to treat or filter the emissions from its smokestacks,” the lawsuit claims. “As a result, Bullseye has contaminated homes, businesses, and families.”

The suit was filed by Keller Rohrback, a Seattle law firm firm. At least one other law firm, New York-based Weitz & Luxenberg has also been meeting with area residents. It is associated with environmental activist Erin Brockovich.