PORTLAND, Ore. – One of only two Fortune 500 companies in Oregon has gained another noteworthy distinction.
Precision Castparts ranked No. 1 on a new list of the nation’s top industrial air polluters. The manufacturer of metal parts for military jets and other aerospace projects has three factories in Portland and Clackamas County.
The ranking was determined based on the millions of pounds of toxic air releases, how toxic the pollutants are and the population of the surrounding areas.
Precision releases chemicals like cobalt and chromium into the atmosphere, which can cause health problems, according to the University of Massachusetts study.
“Precision Castparts is No. 1 because it releases a reasonably high quantity of reasonably toxic material near a fairly large population,” said Michael Ash, the University of Massachusetts researcher behind the study. “Those are the three pieces that get put together.”
Two years ago, Precision's Johnson Creek Boulevard factory had a chemical leak, and one neighbor, Shelly Skelton, said she hadn't been warned.
"Not until friends started calling were we even aware of what was going on," she said at the time.
Skelton had a strong reaction after learning about Precision's recent pollution ranking: "I knew they were killing us," she said.
Other companies release more pollutants, but they are less toxic or in an area with fewer people. Precision owns a total of 40 companies throughout the country. About one-third of the company’s pollution occurs at its Oregon facilities.
When reached for comment, a spokesman for Precision sent this email back: “The company is in the process of evaluating the study.” The company is meeting all permit requirements for its local facilities.
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality officials said they are reviewing the findings in the study.
We also discovered that Precision's Johnson Creek facility was the beneficiary of a nearly $2-million tax break in recent years.
The tax break was given as a government incentive for the company to expand operations here and create jobs.