On Sunday afternoon, residents of the Parkrose and Argay Terrace Neighborhoods had the chance to express their worries about asbestos to state and local officials. Four days prior, a former Kmart in northeast Portland was destroyed by a four-alarm fire that also damaged adjacent schools, parks, and yards.
Numerous residents packed the Parkrose School District Building after learning that asbestos was included in the fire debris recovered at Luuwit View Park. They wanted to know more about the cleanup efforts and to express their concerns.
They were informed that the building’s asbestos was removed by the property manager, Prologis, in the fall of 2022. According to the DEQ, Prologis has engaged contractors to remove the asbestos from the building once more. Jordan Faulds, who lives less than half a mile from the structure, noticed the debris all over the place.
“I saw an extremely dramatic plume of smoke that lasted for a long time and was kind of alarming,” Faulds said. “Took my dogs out and just for a short walk, the air was pretty bad that morning and there were just big chunks of it – anywhere from palm size to kind of like 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper.”
Residents Still Concerned About Health
While Teresa Everson, the health officer for Multnomah County, acknowledges that there are valid reasons for people to be concerned about their health, she also asserts that asbestos exposure must be extended in order to have any negative effects on health.
“I do want to be pretty specific that any short-term exposure to asbestos would not have in the moment symptoms unless it was the kind of exposure that we couldn’t have had in this situation,” Everson said.
The preliminary findings following the examination of debris samples were positive news, according to Audrey O’Brien from the Oregon DEQ.
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“Preliminary analysis shows that for the physical samples that were collected, we’re not seeing asbestos in those samples. what we’ve seen from the air monitoring is that there’s not asbestos in the air monitoring results or there are only trace amounts of asbestos in the air monitoring results,” O’Brien said.
Some neighbors, however, believe that the educational gathering was held too late.
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Asbestos Fears Grow in NE Portland
“I had to clean up my yard immediately because my dog was eating the debris,” a neighbor said. “So, I didn’t really have the option to wait for the guidance and I completely cleaned it up inappropriately.”
Another neighbor said, “Everybody’s been pretty silent and that is really notable. We, as a neighborhood as a larger community of east Portland we’re used to getting ignored and it kind of makes you wonder what we have to do or what has to happen to us for the city to say ‘Hey, we could at least offer some words to these folks.’”
According to the DEQ, asbestos monitoring and testing of debris will continue. When FOX 12 contacted Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office, they learned that the mayor-mandated Portland Bureau of Emergency Management posted a message on social media on Sunday:
“The City of Portland continues to support our partners through the asbestos detection response led by Oregon DEQ. The City of Portland declared an Emergency Declaration on Friday, July 22, to ensure that the fullest extent of City support is available to our lead partners at the State of Oregon.”
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