Columbia supports Cleaner Air Oregon - because we can all use a bit of fresh air!

An Update in Our Participation with Cleaner Air Oregon

In late 2018, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission adopted new rules to implement Cleaner Air Oregon (CAO) legislation, which established the nation’s most stringent air quality program. Through CAO, many facilities with air permits are quantifying air toxics emissions, predicting their impact on populations and, if necessary, implementing additional controls.

Initially the Oregon Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) identified 350 existing facilities that qualified for review. In early 2019, the DEQ announced that Columbia Steel and 19 other companies would be the first CAO program participants. At the time, DEQ expected to complete 20 new reviews each year until every existing facility had participated.

Since the announcement, we’ve worked closely with DEQ as we navigate this new program. We’ve also provided ongoing community updates in an effort to keep our neighbors apprised of our progress. In that continued spirit, here’s where we currently stand with CAO.

Testing Data Submitted

COVID-19 has slowed the process dramatically over the last year, primarily because of difficulties traveling during the pandemic. However, we were able to overcome those obstacles and earlier this year we completed source testing and submitted those results to DEQ.

Most recently, we followed up by turning in our updated emissions inventory, modeling protocol and risk assessment work plan on May 26th. After DEQ is able to review, comment, and approve this latest submission, we move on to the next phase of the program, where we will complete our risk assessment, which is different from the risk assessment work plan we already submitted.

“We appreciate being moved into the next CAO phase on our quest to be responsible neighbors,” said Martha Cox, CEO of Columbia Steel. “The diligence and thoroughness of this process provide a level of accuracy that is key to uncovering meaningful knowledge about our facility.”

A Tradition of Environmental Responsibility

Columbia Steel has received numerous awards for our recycling and emissions control efforts long before the launch of CAO. In the 80s, we began a series of conservation initiatives that reduced our water consumption by 98%. More recently, we developed a recycling program that allows people to use our clean, spent foundry sand as road-base, trench work or fill material in construction sites. Last year alone, we sent 93,000 tons of our recycled material to locations throughout the local area. Every day we recycle up to 1 million gallons of water, up to 50 tons of scrap steel, 200 tons of sand and much more.

Before moving into the Risk Reduction Assessment stage, we hired an air flow specialist to identify improvements we could make in emission capture. Some administrative and operational changes were promptly addressed. Others will require further research depending on the results of the assessment.

More Updates to Come

Our participation in the CAO program is another example of our commitment to minimizing our impact at every company level. “Columbia Steel is proud of our long history of sustainability, conservation, and environmental stewardship,” said Cox. “We look forward to continuing that legacy through our partnership with the DEQ.” Look for more updates as Columbia Steel moves through this important program.