Hayden Island residents, refineries at odds

Refinery president: 'If you're downwind from a dairy farm, you'll smell cow poop'

Island Cove on Hayden Island in North Portland, August 29, 2016 (KOIN)
Island Cove on Hayden Island in North Portland, August 29, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Nina Vaught lives on a houseboat east of Hayden Island — and also east of an oil refinery — who woke up early one morning from a smell.

“At about 4 o’clock in the morning, I woke up,” Vaught told KOIN 6 News. “It was really bad, and I was so sick that I couldn’t get out of bed and go to a couple appointments that I had.”

Nina Vaught lives just east of an oil refinery on Hayden Island in North Portland, August 29, 2016 (KOIN)
Nina Vaught lives just east of an oil refinery on Hayden Island in North Portland, August 29, 2016 (KOIN)

Neighbors in North Portland say the foul-smelling air that’s also toxic is making them sick. It’s a problem the EPA and DEQ have looked into for a while.

The last time KOIN 6 News investigated claims of hydrogen sulfide hanging in the air was May, at Hayden Island — not far from where Nina Vaught lives.

Since last Thursday some people there and in Island Cove say the smell was once again overwhelming.

Neighbors claim the American Petroleum Environmental Services oil refinery is one source of the noxious gas and they’re upset the DEQ and EPA aren’t doing more to address the problem.

“They’re just letting this guy get away with it for his profit versus us being able to breathe clean air,” she said.

The agencies have held community meetings before and the DEQ’s latest update shows they’re currently working with the company to mitigate what’s happening.

Both the DEQ and the EPA say the company is in compliance and that the company is working with the DEQ to install a system that will solve the emissions problem.

Previous air monitoring by the EPA found no evidence the refinery was the main source of excessive hydrogen sulfide.

All about Hydrogen Sulfide

“I think what happened is the EPA saw the analysis of this and they went, ‘Look, the only thing we can do is we have an odor,” American Petroleum Environmental Services President Mike Mazza told KOIN 6 News. “Think of it in layman’s terms: You live downwind from a dairy, you’re going to smell cow poop.”

That may be, but neighbors like Nina Vaught say it’s about more than just an odor.

“It just make you out of breath,” she said. “That morning I was nauseous and my lungs were burning.”

Neither side is happy with the regulatory agencies.

Mazza said he just wants clearance and guidelines from the agencies so he can do something about the emissions.

“I have 4 engineering companies working on a solution.” he told KOIN 6 News. “It’s basically putting a super-giant catalytic converter on the refinery so that everybody is happy. And what’s interesting is I don’t have to do this. I’m doing this to be a good neighbor.”

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