Folks, we are on the verge as a City and a region of seeing Intel expand and grow. Maybe massively. In addition, the CHIPS ACT and the Governor have assured that the taxpayers will pay for much of this growth. On the dawn of this giddy era we are heading into comes news of yet another Intel violation and fine issued by the Oregon DEQ. On July 11th, 2023, the Oregon Department Of Environmental Quality issued a fine to Intel for violating one of the Air Contaminant Discharge Permits they hold.
Here are the facts outlined in the letter:
The Incident occurred from July 7th, 2022, to September 9th, 2022, at the Ronler Acres Facility.
Intel failed to operate an acid gas scrubber.
Intel failed to monitor the PH of the emissions at the scrubber.
Intel Failed to report these violations.
THE EMISSIONS OF DANGEROUS GASES LASTED FOR 63 DAYS and can cause serious harm – SERIOUS HARM – to people and the environment.
Directly from the DEQ
“The health effects from exposure to these chemicals depends on the amount and length of exposure,” DEQ environmental engineer Patty Jacobs wrote in a January violation notice to Intel. “However, short-term exposure to high enough air concentrations of these chemicals can cause severe respiratory damage in humans, including severe irritation and lung edema. Severe eye irritation and skin burns may occur following eye or skin exposure in humans.” https://www.oregonlive.com/silicon-forest/2023/07/oregon-seeks-to-penalize-intel-31000-over-failed-pollution-controls.html
Let’s break that letter and the released chemicals down a bit:
Immediate signs and symptoms of exposure to hydrogen fluoride
Swallowing only a small amount of highly concentrated hydrogen fluoride will affect major internal organs and may be fatal.
Hydrogen fluoride gas, even at low levels, can irritate the eyes, nose, and respiratory tract. Breathing in hydrogen fluoride at high levels or in combination with skin contact can cause death from an irregular heartbeat or from fluid buildup in the lungs.
Even small splashes of high-concentration hydrogen fluoride products on the skin can be fatal. Skin contact with hydrogen fluoride may not cause immediate pain or visible skin damage(signs of exposure).
Often, patients exposed to low concentrations of hydrogen fluoride on the skin do not show effects or experience pain immediately. And, severe pain at the exposure site may be the only symptom for several hours. Visible damage may not appear until 12 to 24 hours after the exposure.
Depending on the concentration of the chemical and the length of time of exposure, skin contact with hydrogen fluoride may cause severe pain at the point of contact; a rash; and deep, slow-healing burns. Severe pain can occur even if no burns can be seen.
Showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has been exposed to hydrogen fluoride. Other chemicals also can cause these effects.
Exposure to hydrogen fluoride can result in severe electrolyte problems.
Hydrogen Chloride Exposure
CAS No. 7647-01-0
Hydrogen chloride (HCl) is a colorless to slightly yellow gas with a pungent odor. Hydrogen chloride can irritate the skin, nose, eyes, throat, and larynx. Exposure to liquid hydrogen chloride may cause frostbite. Workers may be harmed from exposure to hydrogen chloride. The level of harm depends upon the dose, duration, and work being done.
HBr liquid and vapor are highly corrosive to tissues. Symptoms of over exposure include coughing, choking, burning in the throat, wheezing, and asphyxia.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Selected Airborne Chemicals: Volume 17. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/18796.
Not to mention fluorine and chlorine. Gosh, I guess living next to the Fab site makes life more interesting and dangerous- and yes, I have lived here long before the Intel Ronler Acres or any of the Fabs arrived. But this is not the first violation for the biggest employer in Oregon. A few years back, they had a much larger exposure and fine in which several tons of fluoride gas was released into the atmosphere over Hillsboro and the surrounding areas, including thousands of residences that could have been affected.
The DEQ issued a fine in 2014 for realizing that Intel had been dumping fluoride gas without permits for years. The penalty was a paltry $143,000 fine. That case was highly publicized –
So what are we to do as our politicians, both sides of the aisle, are intent on pushing Hillsboro and Intel into the future with more fabs, more off-put, and more than likely more exposure to all of us who live around here? Are we to leave? That is what many people who lived in New Mexico did after becoming ill from, the claim, that Intel emissions made them very sick. All of that was outlined in the book Boiling Frogs: Intel Vs The Village . Barbara Rockwell wrote the book, and is a detailed and sobering look at the reality we are living in here.
We can expect glowing support from the Hillsboro City Council and the Washington County Commissioners- and if we hear anything about environmental concerns, I will be shocked. Action or conditions will be even more surprising. I believe that Intel does not monitor the off put from their fabs once they leave the pipe- if they do, I want proof. And I am quite sure they will not allow anyone from the community to monitor them actively. I challenge someone to prove me wrong.
Sound off – what do you think? This is a conversation we need to have. Can we have jobs and the prosperity they bring without the risks? What of public safety in a massive earthquake or other cataclysmic event? Why are we having some of the world’s largest chemical plants constructed on top of our people….our children, and our schools? These are human questions – and no politics can clearly answer them except for when viewed through the lens of the all-mighty dollar.
We should be able to have good jobs and expect to be safe- that is not a difficult concept to support- but it is not one we really seem to get much anymore in this country. I say it is time we did.