Concerns over a new crematory in Montavilla are spreading like the smoke of an incinerated loved one.
Portland Public Schools this week hired an environmental services firm PBS Engineering and Environmental to test the soil at Vestal school, roughly a block away from the crematory at NE 80th and Everett.
"If there is some particle in the air or on the ground that could be harmful to our students, we wanna take action," said Christine Miles, spokeswoman for the district.
As the Mercury reported this week, neighbors worry the crematory is spewing harmful pollutants into the area. Since shortly after it began operation in February, they've called on city and state officials to crack down on the activity, with little effect.
City staff has ordered business owners to quiet down the incinerator, but the activity is allowed under Portland zoning policy. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality says the operation is in compliance with state law. But neighbors say the crematory— which was called Cremation and Burial Care of Oregon last week, but which is now apparently calling itself Gable Funeral Home and Cremation Service—frequently spews black smoke into the air. Area resident Chuck Spidell posted this video to YouTube earlier in the week.
Regardless of what's contained in that plume, experts say such smoke is an indicator something's wrong.
"If it's smoking they've got an equipment problem, and if it smells they've got an equipment problem," said Mark Matthews, a crematory owner and past president of the Cremation Association of North America. "This equipment, properly installed, should not smoke and should not give off odors."
Miles said it's too early to say how much the soil tests will cost PPS. Meanwhile, neighbors say they're sitting down with a lawyer to examine whether they have grounds to file suit.
"We’re only gonna involve a lawyer if we can't get any traction from our city," Spidell says.
Russ Hendrickson, the crematory's manager has declined to discuss the issue, saying he needs permission from parent company StoneMor Partners. The company hasn't returned my calls or emails.