Portland scrapyard impacted by fire waiting to cleanup, neighbor - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland scrapyard impacted by fire waiting to cleanup, neighbors frustrated

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Nearly two months after the massive fire at NW Metals, the mountain of burned-out cars and twisted metal remains at the business’ NE Portland scrapyard, and neighbors are growing curious and frustrated by new additions to the pile.

On top of the fire debris, sits dozens of cars clearly untouched by the giant and toxic flames that tore through the area in March.

“There’s at least 50 cars, easily,” said neighbor Mario Tamayo, Sunday, as he looked out into the massive pile of wrecked cars on NW Metal’s property off
Northeast Killingsworth Street.

The fire, back in March, spread to neighboring houses, destroying four homes and killing more than a dozen pets. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes as ash rained down and thick smoke was deemed hazardous by health officials.

More than a month ago, The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) cited the scrapyard for several violations, including illegally storing waste tires and taking cars apart in a manner allowing oil to seep into the ground.

DEQ ordered the business to clean up the fire debris on its property.

“I can definitely tell you no cars have been moved,” said Tamayo, adding he was surprised by how quickly NW Metals resumed operations. “Two or three weeks after the fire -- which I thought was kind of funny -- because with the investigation, you’d think they’d need the cars on the bottom. It’s like they never stopped. They just kept going.”

Daniel Berkman lives a little bit further away from the scrapyard, on NE Prescott. He’s active with neighborhood groups trying to ensure NW Metals follows through on DEQ’s orders.

“People are very concerned that NW Metals is back in business, stacking cars, exactly like they were before the fire and there’s no visible movement of a cleanup,” Berkman said. “We’re  frustrated.”

But NW Metals’ owner told Fox 12 he’s waiting on insurance information before starting the cleanup process, and is also frustrated – feeling unfairly targeted by DEQ.

Moyata Anotta said he believes the fire may have been started by trespassers, and a forced cleanup of his own property doesn’t make sense.

“There’s no imminent danger to the public because they don’t have access to our (property),” Anotta said by phone. “These orders are pushing us to being on the brink of being out of business.”

DEQ is also requiring NW Metals to hire contractors to test soil on its property and two nearby sites, as well as collect and test samples of groundwater and soil “in and around the dry wells to assess potential contamination associated with the fire.”

Anotta said that last part of the order is irrelevant.

“We don’t have (dry wells) on our property,” Anotta said, adding that inspectors come out twice to look for them.

It's unclear if DEQ has issued a deadline for the testing and cleanup, although the agency, in March, said NW Metals had 7 days to secure a contractor for the cleanup.

Anotta said the scrapyard has hired a cleanup contractor.

Meanwhile, neighbors said they worry about future fires, health risks in the area, and are running out of patience.

“(We’re) really frustrated, really forgotten,” Berkman said. “We’d like to keep the pressure on -- my neighbors are making phone calls, writing letters to DEQ, to the governor.”

“I’m definitely disappointed that they’re not enforcing it more,” Tamayo said.

At last word, Portland Fire and Rescue was still working to determine the cause of the fire.

Berkman said area neighbors  are still concerned about potential risks to gardens that may have been littered with toxic ash and debris.

Neighbors would like DEQ, or another agency, to test soil around the area, but were denied that request, according to Berkman.

DEQ said it was “unlikely” there would be significant impacts of contamination in area gardens. The department recommended people “follow normal precautions” when growing and eating fruits and vegetables.

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