ESCO independent audit gets underway

Mr. Jim Karas and his colleague Mr. Fred Tanaka spent three days in Portland last week.  Their time was primarily spent at  ESCO to tour the facility and observe operations. Neighborhood representatives were given the opportunity to meet with Mr. Karas and Mr. Tanaka prior to their visit to ESCO Monday morning at DEQ headquarters.  ESCO declined to participate in this meeting.

The pre-meeting was a key opportunity for the community (represented by Mary Peveto, NCA; Aubrey Baldwin, PEAC, John Krallman (NEDC/PEAC); Bob Holmstrom (NWDA H&E); and Dr. Robert Amundson (NWDA H&E) to get to know the contractor and discuss concerns, as well as establish procedure for communication between the contractor, the community, ESCO and DEQ.

Jim Karas started by introducing himself and discussing his previous work that specializes in the development of foundry specific pollution control and testing and monitoring emissions.  He has worked for over a decade in the Berkeley, CA area on modifications and emissions reduction strategies of Pacific Steel Casting in response to neighboring community concerns and odor complaints.  Fred Tanaka’s background is in chemical engineering.

The community was particularly interested in Karas’ insights to how odor complaints are responded to in the Bay Area; he specifically sited that they have 70 inspectors who respond within minutes to every odor complaint, and criteria in place to establish whether complaints are valid.  When complaints are established as valid, then enforcement action is indicated against the offending facility.  DEQ staffers shared our envy, noting that there are 2 such inspectors in our metro region, who double as permit writers, and it is nearly impossible to respond to complaints to validate them.

In an exit meeting before Mr. Karas and Mr. Tanaka left town on Wednesday, neighborhood representatives, ESCO staff and attorney, and DEQ staff received a pretty detailed accounting of the contractor’s time at ESCO, which included a full tour of the facility and observation of all processes that take place there.  It was noted that this included what turned out to be an upset, and they were able to also observe the worker response to that and evaluate the effectiveness of efforts to minimize excess emissions.

It was also discussed that Karas would be given access to the engineers ESCO hired last summer to conduct the “alternatives analysis,” so that they could discuss the work together, and so that Karas can better evaluate the recommendations that came out of that report.  This has been a key for the community, as it informs the basis of the Good Neighbor Agreement in the works between NW neighbors, NEDC and ESCO.  We have been stating for months that we did not want to offer any opinion on the changes that ESCO’s is proposing until we had the opportunity for those to be evaluated by the independent auditor.

Jim Karas noted as he started his recap that the facility is generally run very well and the staff is clearly dedicated and conscientious. His comments were quite detailed regarding the process and operations, including (but certainly not limited to) the Electric Arc Furnaces (EAF) of both the main plant and plant 3, observations about thermal reclaim heating temperatures, uncaptured emissions from dump back, AOD and the chain floor.  But he again revisited opportunity for recommendations on improving response to community concerns, particularly establishing odor complaint response plan, and considering investments in community monitoring stations and/or wind direction indicators.

In conclusion of this phase of the audit, it was established that all communication will be directed through DEQ and the community can expect a draft report back no later than May 16th.  The draft will be made available for comment, and Mr. Karas will travel back to Portland before submitting a final report.

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