• Alex Despain

A controversial new crematory in Montavilla isn't spewing the soil-poisoning mercury neighbors fear, according to a Portland environmental services firm.

PBS Engineering and Environmental was hired by Portland Public Schools last month to study soil at Vestal School, which sits about a block from Gable Funeral Home and Cremation Service. As the Mercury's reported, the business has raised eyebrows since firing up an incinerator in February.

Neighbors report "sickly sweet" smells and noxious black smoke. They're concerned the company is flouting conditions of its permit and coating the area around NE 80th and Everett with harmful particulates.

But PBS found no reason for alarm [pdf]. In tests conducted on swabs of Vestal's roof and soil samples, the company detected mercury levels well below concentrations in other parts of the metro area.

"Sampling data do not indicate that there is a mercury concern related to the operation of the crematorium," a report reads. "If significant and measurable quantities of mercury were emitted by this crematorium, one would expect to see more consistency in the levels of mercury detected in all the samples."

It's doubtful this news will much dissuade neighbors, who've insisted the crematory is consistently releasing toxic stuff into the air at greater levels than environmental law permits. They're working with state representatives on potential legislation to curb crematories in residential neighborhoods.

Interestingly, the crematory is allowed in Montavilla under a similar designation that Commissioner Amanda Fritz wants to use to move homeless rest area Right 2 Dream Too under the Broadway Bridge: It's a "community service."