H installs new filter
Hollingsworth Vose is installing new pollution control equipment the company says will significantly reduce particulates and other emissions at its south Corvallis plant.
On Thursday morning, workers with Forslund Crane Service and Bender Mechanical Services used a crane to lower a 7 ton fan into place for the first of a planned 18 ceramic dry filtration units at the H glass fiber plant at 1115 SE Crystal Lake Drive.
After testing the first unit to make sure the custom designed equipment works as intended, the company plans to install the rest of the filters over the course of the summer, with a goal of completing the work by late July or early August.
Once the entire system is up and running, company officials say, it will eliminate 99 percent of all filterable particulates, significantly cut fluoride emissions, reduce water use by 80 90 percent, virtually eliminate the visible steam plume above the plant and reduce noise levels from the operation.
The new system will not reduce carbon monoxide emissions coming out of the stacks, but H officials say they hope it will ease at least some of the concerns expressed by people in the residential district around the factory.
“Our intent was to take the particulate level which was the main concern of the neighborhood as low as we possibly could,” said Ken Fausnacht, the company’s vice president for global operations.
Fausnacht declined to say how much money the company is spending on the new equipment, but a building permit application filed with the city of Corvallis puts the value of the project at $2.2 million.
Headquartered in Massachusetts, Hollingsworth Vose has 14 locations in a half dozen countries around the world. The Corvallis plant employs about 150 people and produces glass fiber for use in specialty applications such as battery separators and clean room air filters.
In late 2015, state environmental regulators learned that the Corvallis plant had been operating under the wrong class of air pollution permit for almost 20 years and had been putting out much higher levels of fluoride and carbon monoxide than its permit allowed. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality fined H but allowed the plant to continue operating at established production levels while it applied for the appropriate permits.
The revelations alarmed neighbors, who flocked to a series of community meetings to voice their concerns over the DEQ’s regulatory lapses and the possible health effects of breathing tiny glass fibers and other pollutants coming from the plant.
The new ceramic dry filtration devices are among several steps H has taken to address those concerns and position itself to meet potentially more stringent emissions limits coming down the pike from the state, which is developing new health based air pollution standards. The company also has installed several monitors in and around the plant to measure carbon monoxide levels in its emissions and in the ambient air around the plant, as well as a weather station to capture data about wind patterns and other factors that can affect where pollution ends up.
Marilyn Koenitzer, founder of a citizens group called Clean Corvallis Air, said she welcomes any reduction in emissions at the plant but fears some of the smallest and most concerning particulates may still get through. She also worries that the Title V air pollution permit the company is seeking may allow higher levels of carbon monoxide emissions than the plant is currently discharging.
“I don’t care what their production rate is if they contain the effluent,” she said. “If that happens I will be very happy, but I’m waiting to see. I’m reserving total judgment until we see what the testing reveals.”
Fausnacht said he hopes the new equipment will not only slash emissions but also demonstrate the company’s good intentions.
“We want to reduce our emissions dramatically, we want to position ourselves for the long term viability of this site and we want to show that we’re responding to the concerns of the community specifically the people in this immediate neighborhood,” he said.