DEQ: Montavilla crematorium OK as is

The view from a NE Portland kitchen window Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 -- as the new crematorium fires up at Gable Funeral Home. (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Neighbors living near an East Portland crematorium that’s known for spewing black smoke into the surrounding air received some answers Monday night.

But they’re not happy about what they’re hearing from the Department of Environmental Quality.

9-11-13-crematorium street signs
When the cremations started here at NE 80th and Everett, Bruce Dawson also started seeing smoke from his kitchen window. (KOIN 6 News)

KOIN 6 News first exposed the problem at the crematorium on NE 80th and Everett about two weeks ago. It’s near homes — and an elementary school. And that has a lot people worried about what’s in the black smoke filling the air.

On Monday night, DEQ Air Quality manager David Monro responded to neighborhood concerns about the now infamous video — of black smoke from cremated human remains pouring out of a smoke stack at the Gable Funeral Home at NE 80th and Everett Street.

“We do care; we are listening,” said Monro. “When people complain, we are sending inspectors out in the field.”

But DEQ staff also told the crowd that the Gable Funeral Home is abiding by terms of its permit. As it turns out, granting a permit for cremation in the middle of a neighborhood does not require notification to people living in the area. Plus, DEQ reports it can’t use the video of the smoke as a basis for enforcement action against the funeral home.

“We’ve been sending people out, because of those complaints and because of those videos that show emissions and the potential for non-compliance,” Monro said. But so far, no luck for those sounding the alarm in this East Portland neighborhood.

For many in the Montavilla area, the answers provided by state air quality regulators were less than satisfactory.

“We live in Oregon and we expect it to be a green state,” said Benjamin Kerensa with the Montavilla Neighborhood Association, “and when you have lax regulations like this you can only be disappointed with regulators…”

Sonya Werner teaches piano not far from the crematory and she says the noise from the facility rattles her windows a block away.

“It’s very frustrating,” Werner said. “All the neighbors feel like we’re getting the royal run-around from both the city and the DEQ.”

The city of Portland is in the process of dealing with any noise violations that may be at the funeral home. Representatives from the funeral home were invited to tonight’s neighborhood association meeting — they turned down the offer. We tried to make contact inside the building tonight again to no avail.

Neighbors are still waiting on results from tests the Portland public school district requested on its soil near the crematorium. Robb Cowie with Portland Public Schools said those results are expected to come this week.

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