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Tire Burning Plant: Corrupt St Helens City Officials Turn Deaf Ear to Citizen Concerns

Speculative industrialists are trying to foist a dirty, toxic tire burning plant upon the community of St Helens, just North of Portland. Despite an underhanded effort to sneak this in under the radar of public comment, hundreds of people showed up last week to register their strong opposition to the proposal. But it seems that corrupt and short-sighted city officials may have already made up their minds, long before the public was even informed about the project at all.
Reklaim Technologies wants to make a killing. Literally, it seems. "Recycling" tires is the next big thing. They say they can get just over a gallon of oil for every tire they burn. They call themselves "eco-friendly," and their website is decorated with pictures of trees and waterfalls and hiking boots. They say that their "patented pending process" will "improve the environment." Those who know bullshit when they see it will recognize this for what it is. It's a lie. A story, manufactured to quell public concerns about the highly toxic process that this company will be using. A lie that will pave the way to profits for Reklaim technologies.

In order to convert waste tires into oil, Reklaim incinerators will burn them. The Sierra club is not fooled by the greenwahsed rhetoric. The environmental organization's website states:

"...the Sierra Club is against burning of waste tires. Incineration is not true recycling, and is not an 'environmentally safe transformation.' Tire incineration is a one-time conversion that produces increases in known carcinogens, and poses significant health risks."

The statement goes on to quote repeated and consistent studies which have shown that tire "recycling" in this manner presents unacceptable health hazards to the people who have to live around these plants. One study showed that cancer rates rose 20% in the area surrounding a tire burning plant. According to Clean Air Director Dr Neil Carmon, tire burning plants like the one proposed in St Helens lead to significant increases in the levels of mercury, lead, zinc, dioxins, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, arsenic, and benzene in the atmosphere around the plant. No matter how many assurances to the contrary are offered before the smoke stacks pierce the sky, the devastating truth comes belching out once the tires start burning. Further, the Sierra Club notes:

"Tire burning releases mercury into our air, which causes brain, lung, kidney damage, reproductive problems, and death. Just one drop of mercury can contaminate a 25 acre lake to the point where fish are unsafe to eat, making mercury the most common reason for 'fish advisories.' EPA states that 6 million women of childbearing age have unsafe mercury levels in their bodies, and 375,000 babies are born each year at risk for neurological problems due to fetal mercury exposure."

Those of us who live here, along the Columbia river, are already well aware of the dangers and prevalence of mercury poisons in our environment. The fish who swim in our river are contaminated with mercury, and the horror of a mercury-induced birth defect is enough to stike terror into the heart of any expectant mother out here. We also know all about industrial waste, corruption, and betrayal by city officials. Some time back, the Port of St Helens gave 50 acres to Bergsoe Metal Corporation for an "eco friendly" project very similar to this one. The rhetoric was almost identical. Bergsoe built a lead "recycling" plant here, over the objections of people who knew better. The city let them. They said it would mean jobs, and development, and progress for the region. And then, they poisoned us. The site is still toxic. Bergsoe went bankrupt, the promised jobs evaporated, and the once-pristine wetlands became a superfund site. It was never really cleaned up, and it will never be the same again. And now, they want us to go through it all again.

They want us to just sit back and accept their assurances that this will be a clean, friendly, environmentally safe project. They want us to believe that our children will not be poisoned with their filth, no matter how many studies have shown otherwise. They want us to belive, that is, that nothing can ever go wrong. ...go wrong. ...go wrong.

The people of this community were not informed of the proposed facility until the last possible moment. Not until after city planner Skip Baker had apparently already given the green light to Reklaim Technologies, telling them that they could build the plant here. He did not even wait for public comment on the matter, but decided for himself. For all of us. For the sake of appearances, they went ahead and had a public meeting on the matter last week -- which hundreds of people attended. It was standing room only, and every single person who came was outspokenly opposed to the proposed facility. In the end, so many people wanted to speak that the meeting was finally called late in the night, with Baker magnanimously allowing a single week for people to submit written comments before the foregone decision will be announced. The deadline is tonight. Oh. Did I mention that one of the commissioners who will rubber stamp this decision has a daughter who is married to the land owner who stands to make a mint, selling us all out like this? I'm sure she can be objective, even so. Why wouldn't I have faith in my city officials, after all?

(By the way, I called Mr. Baker to register my own opposition, but was told by him that it didn't matter what I thought. All that mattered was "the law." He said the law is fair. The same law that allowed Bergsoe to destroy a swath of riverbank, the same law that allows Boise Cascade to stink up the air, the same law that lets Hanford puke up swill into the river far upstream that still poisons babies way down here in St Helens. I'm sure the law will be fair and impartial, and will consider the health and well being of the people of my community. Just as it always has.)

No Tire Burning Plant! 23.May.2007 16:51

From St Helens

Did you know, there are at least FIVE superfund sites right here in this little town on the Columbia? Clearly, there is no one in City Hall looking out for the interests of the people of this community. I think it will be time to do some house cleaning, should they fail to listen to the concerns of the public on this matter, and try to put this plant here over our opposition. I will fight to protect myself, my family, and my neighbors from this.

Why They're Doing It 23.May.2007 17:06

St Helens 2

They say they will get just over a gallon of oil for every tire they "recycle." Also, they will get fat subsidies and tax write-offs for "recycling" waste products. Lots of money to be had by people who do not live here, and will not have to deal with the fallout.

No one is disputing the need to find ways to keep old tires out of landfills, but this is not the way to do it. This is dangerous and hazardous. We don't need any more smokestacks in St Helens, we already have far more than enough for a small town this size. And we've already been through the ringer with industrial wastes. There are already too many places we can't swim, can't drink the water, can't harvest berries or plant vegetables, and our children can't play because of the pollution. I've already had too many scares, coming home from a hike only to learn that the place where I was hiking is a former toxic waste dump and I should throw away my boots because of the poisons I might have tracked home. I'm done with this. I will do everything in my power to ensure that this tire plant is never built, and if it is, it never burns a tire. And I will summarily kick any politician who thinks he or she can sell me out right out of town on a rail. We won't forget this.

This is not fair. 23.May.2007 20:16


Every time anyone wants to build so much as a freakin garage out here, we get a card in the mail to notify us. It's that small of a town. Yet for this, they don't even bother to tell anyone, and when we all find out in the paper, they act like it's our own fault we didn't find out in time to do anything about it!? Not fair. I plan to fight this hard, with whatever it takes.

It *can* be stopped, of course... 23.May.2007 23:50

anonymous or made up

...but will people do what it would take if it came down to it?

Time was, when your food supply and family were being threatened, that you banded together with your neighbors, and used any means necessary to defend yourself. For most people in opposition to this, going to the hearing was a major accomplishment, and they're not likely to up the ante. The city officials know this. Like many authoritarians, they count on apathy to hold up their thrones. Or fear. Fear to act in a real way, believing that the uncertainty of the moment is better than the thralldom of eternity. "Life or death," it's been called. Fighting for the first at risk of the second.

No, it probably won't go down that residents of St. Helens will gather up, hand out pitchforks, storm what needs to be stormed, and keep that damn tire burning plant out of their community. Once more, Americans will fail to act upon the fundamental truth that "there's more of us than them."

But who knows what time will bring...


P.S. Thank you to the original poster and to the commenters. What a well-elucidated and finely-written report!

Why were we not notified? 24.May.2007 23:21


I was never notified about this. I did not even know about it. I am horrified. Surely we will not let them get away with this.

another BOHICA 25.May.2007 11:37


You have to be kidding me. All we need is more crap in the air around here. I worked at the Bergsoe Metals Corporation and believe me, this is another Bergsoe in the making. All we will be left with is another superfund toxic waste site which will never be cleaned up because the polluters will not be held responsible. The audacity of the planning commission in St. Helens is reprehensible, as are their actions in this case. They should be ashamed of themselves. Again.


St. Helens Resident

The Planning Commission denied the conditional use permit. The plant will not be able to operate without it.

The St. Helens city officials appear to have done the right thing. They sure don't look corrupt to me.

Not so fast 01.Jul.2007 21:22


Reklaim has appealed, and this story is far from decided.

(And don't they look corrupt to you? Clearly, then, you either did not attend the city council meetings, or you are a city councilor.)