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Stauffer Chemical Plant Oregon

Portions of the Stauffer Chemical Plant in Portland, Oregon, are still in existence, though parts of the industrial campus have been vacated and are considered to be environmentally polluted sites. These sites present a financial burden for the city and the government

The Plant

The former plant site is located along the southern shore of the Oregon Slough of the Columbia River. This is in the North Portland Harbor north of Rhodia Inc.'s Alum facility on Suttle Road.

The alum facility was built in 1941 for Stauffer Chemical Company to produce alum for use in water purification. Other products formulated and produced at the site included agricultural chemicals and pesticides. These found their way into the ground and the river from 1954 to 1985.

Environmental Impacts

Because of the industrial process that required grinding of materials, pesticides were unintentionally introduced into alum mud. The process released the mud using an outfall from the Rhodia facility into the Oregon Slough. This occurred between 1954 and 1968.

Investigation on the part of the Environmental Protection Agency has revealed sediments at the outfall that contain contamination by DDT and DDE - highly toxic pesticides.

Surface sediments along the shoreline also contained elevated levels of alum and other chemicals.

Cleanup at the Site

It was determined that a cap should be placed over the toxic sediments and soil so that further seepage of water through the toxic chemicals could not create runoff into the river or pollute groundwater.

Design of the sediment cap was undertaken by CH2MHILL and was installed in 2005.

Asbestos in the Stauffer Chemical Plant

If fire or extreme temperature was a danger, various forms of asbestos were the insulating material preferred by builders for much of the 20th century. Materials made with asbestos, accordingly, were frequently used when building facilities such as the Stauffer Chemical Plant in Portland, Oregon. Resistance to reactive chemicals is another property of certain kinds of the fibrous mineral. Given the kind of work that goes on at chemical plants, asbestos, therefore, appeared not only in factory buildings, but also in lab equipment, protective clothing and bench tops. There is little doubt that asbestos was excellent at protecting against flames and high heat. This strength, however, came with a significant cost in terms of human health.

In general, amosite was the type of asbestos used. Amosite is one of the amphibole forms of the asbestos family of minerals and is commonly considered more likely to lead to disease than serpentine asbestos. Although it was outlawed as a construction material in the 1970s, this amosite, in the form of asbestos-containing transite, was utilized for many years in chemical plants, refineries and labs across the country.

Asbestos transite could be sprayed onto ductwork and pipes, laminated and molded into working surfaces just like cement could. As long as asbestos transite was solid, this form of asbestos posed little danger. However, as asbestos-containing transite aged, it became prone to becoming powdery, which enabled the deadly, tiny particles to float into the atmosphere. Asbestos in this condition is considered friable, which is defined as easily pulverized. The insulation lining of industrial ovens also often contained friable asbestos.

Why Friable Asbestos Is a Problem

Asbestos particles, when friable, are readily released into the air. Breathing asbestos particles can cause conditions like cancer or asbestosis. In addition, inhaling asbestos is known to be the primary causal factor of pleural mesothelioma, a rare and often lethal cancer affecting the mesothelium, which is the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity. Ingestion of asbestos fibers, as may occur when the tiny particles float in the air and fall on food or in beverages, can be the cause of pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.

In the past twenty years medical researchers have learned much information about the risks that accompany asbestos exposure, and therefore there are strict laws regulating its use. However, when facilities such as the Stauffer Chemical Plant in Portland, Oregon, were first operating, asbestos was more commonplace. Before present-day rules were enacted, workers often toiled without respirators or other safety gear in environments where asbestos dust filled the air.

Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger

Asbestos cancer, in contrast to typical workplace injuries, which are easily observed and known about immediately following the causing incident, can take many, many years to manifest. When a worker starts showing signs such as pain in the chest or abdomen, a persistent cough and dyspnea, his or her physician might not at first recognize asbestos exposure as a cause, leading to a delay in diagnosis. It is very important, therefore, that those that worked at or lived near plants such as the Stauffer Chemical Plant inform their health care professionals about the chance of asbestos exposure. New methods for treating mesothelioma are being discovered, and early detection provides the patient and his or her doctor the best chance of overcoming the once always-fatal disease.



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