Boiling Frogs-Intel vs. the Village

"Boiling Frogs - Intel vs. the Village" recounts the story of Intel Rio Rancho's impact on the air and water in the Village of Corrales from the mid-1980s to the present day. Updates to this ongoing saga will be posted here.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

ALS and Intel

Note: The neighborhoods around Intel Rio Rancho NM has an ALS rate 28 times higher than normal. This was confirmed by the ATSDR (Toxic Substance Disease Registry) a branch of the CDC when they were sent in to research the area. UPDATED: Dying for tech toys? Chip boom reflected in rising ALS rates By Anna Canzano and Kelly Hatmaker, published: Feb 3, 2015 at 2:16 pm PST: Last Updated: Feb 7, 2015 at 2:12 am PST Daniel Berry wasn't a flashy guy. He wasn't a complainer either. Maybe it was his experience in the military aboard a navy submarine as a young man then overseas in Afghanistan at 42 years old. Whatever the reason, Daniel never complained. About anything. Especially not his health. Daniel Berry (Photo: Berry family) So when he thought he had pulled a muscle, he didn't seek medical attention. Like a lot of men are prone to do, Daniel was just going to tough this out. but after a couple months he started having issues with his left leg. Then one day, his wife Michelle walked into their kitchen. "He was doing dishes and he was wearing shorts and I looked at him and said, oh my gosh, you have to go to the doctor," recalled Michelle. Dan had big calves from years of riding his bike and swimming. But on this day in the fall of 2010, Michelle was alarmed by what she saw. "I told him your left thigh and calf are half the size of the other one. That is not from a pulled muscle! Your legs don't diminish in size like that from that," said Michelle. That was the beginning of the end. The diagnosis? ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It's a rare neuro-degenerative disorder that traps is victims in their own bodies. It normally strikes when people are in their sixties. Daniel was only 45 years old. By 46, he needed a wheelchair. By 47, a ventilator. And eight months after he turned 49, Daniel was gone. "This disease is horrible and I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy. There's just nobody I'd want to have it," said Michelle Berry. Consider the agony Dan felt -- with a mind as sharp as ever -- wondering until his final breath if somehow his work was connected to his disease. For nearly 15 years, he'd worked as a chip polisher for Intel at the company's Ronler Acres location in Hillsboro. It's a job that exposed him to harsh chemicals. Before dying, he learned of three co-workers at that location who developed ALS, and another at the company's plant in Arizona. One of them died before Dan. A fourth was diagnosed after Dan died. Dan wanted answers from Intel. "My mom was emailing to let them know we had heard more people had gotten ALS and they called her instead of emailing back. They said they were doing a formal investigation and asked for my dad's medical records," recalled Alssya Berry, Dan's daughter. He signed off on the records release and the Berry family says that's really the last they heard from the company. Daniel went to his grave unsure of whether his disease was as random as he initially thought. Lou Gehrig called himself the luckiest man alive. Is it possible these Intel employees were just unlucky? Or was it something else? "If there's a correlation then something needs to be done," said Michelle. "I want my dad's story to be out there. I want people to know other families are going through this and to make people aware this is happening," said Alyssa. Ronler Acres campus under construction 1994. (Photo: Intel Corporation) Intel made Oregon its production hub in the 1990s, and added the 'Fab 20' manufacturing plant to Ronler Acres, where Dan worked, in 1996. According to data from the Oregon Health Authority, the very next year the rate of ALS deaths in Oregon jumped 28 percent, to a then-record high 1.8 per every hundred thousand people. 2003 was another big year at Ronler Acres. That's when Intel offically took the wraps off D1D, a $2 billion dollar research fabrication plant, designed to help keep the company ahead of the market. 2003 was also the first year OHA included ALS as one of Oregon's "Leading Causes of Death;" the ALS death rate had climbed to 3.2 per 100,000 people, the 4th highest in the nation. D1D opened in 2003 as Intel's primary research manufacturing facility. (Photo: Intel/Bruce Forster Photography, Inc.) Lou Gehrig's Disease takes years to kill its victims. In this sort of comparison, you'd expect any ups and downs in ALS activity to occur 'after the fact,' but they don’t. One possible explanation for why ALS deaths had time to 'catch-up': Intel's institutional adherence to Moore's Law. Named for Intel's co-founder, Gordon E. Moore, and enshrined on the company website, Moore's Law says computer processors will double in complexity every two years. To stay on schedule, Intel builds ebbs and flows into production 18-to-36 months in advance; R&D (which is done primarily in Washington County) is charted out even farther into the future than that. Intel calls it the "Tick-Tock" model, and you can read about it on the company website, too. The boom and bust cycle of Intel's fortunes is reflected in the ALS activity OHA reported in the Portland area. Year after year of data reveals each time Intel slowed or stopped production, as it did in 2004, when its processors hit a "thermal wall," or in 2010, when it mothballed Fab 20 - the ALS rate in Washington and Multnomah counties dropped. In the years Intel made a killing, so did ALS. Death rates in Washington and Multnomah Counties climbed after 2008, as Intel's sales surged to meet the rising demand for PCs; in 2012 - when Intel was rolling out its "Ivy Bridge" processor - Lou Gehrig's Disease claimed 44 lives in Washington and Multnomah Counties, a new record for the region. And what about Intel's employees? "When we found the second or third person we were pretty concerned at that point," said Alyssa. "There were people who'd either worked with my dad, worked in the same fab, or had been working for Intel for the same time, 14 years or longer." In fact, Alyssa found obituaries and other internet sources revealing that half a dozen Intel employees in Oregon have been dealt this death sentence over the last 20 years. Reached about this story, Intel said it is aware of the reports of ALS. But spokesman Chuck Mulloy communicated to KATU News: “Based on our investigation and based on the data we have seen we don’t believe there is a correlation between Intel and ALS.” We asked Dr. Richard Clapp of Boston University to review what we found. He produced the most comprehensive examination on record looking at employee at chip making plants like Intel. It found a statistically significant increase in ALS cases among some of IBM's plant workers. He fought IBM in the courts for years to go public with his findings, and won, publishing the results in 2006. Dr. Clapp called the questions raised by KATU "important" and worthy of more study. "I think there will probably be others that will pick up and take this further, and be able to do some research that might be published in a peer reviewed academic journal." Such a study, Dr. Clapp said, would "add to our knowledge about what goes on in this particular industry." Intel is facing some intense scrutiny right now over the chemicals it's releasing into the community from its plants in Washington county. The state didn't know it was releasing fluorides into the air for 30 years. And now it's asking the state to increase those chemical releases.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Intel in Oregon

Boiling Frogs, Intel vs the Village (Corrales, New Mexico) – A Great Help in Oregon I am Dale Feik, a concerned father, grandfather, and citizen who has family surrounded by four Intel Manufacturing plants in Oregon. In the fall of 2013, I read Boiling Frogs and have never been the same since. This is a book everyone, especially all elected officials, should be required to read. For many years I have been concerned about climate change, and several years ago I decided to devote my time and energy to convincing people in Washington County, Oregon, that community well-being is more important than industry and jobs. In early 2013 my daughter and her husband bought their home in Hillsboro, Oregon. Then in September of last year they had their first child. Intel manufacturing plants surround them. Through attending public meetings, studying, and talking with others, reviewing archived and current Intel files at Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), I began to realize that Intel posed a serious threat to their health and safety. I have written Op Ed pieces, letters to the editors, made many public comments to the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission (the policy and enforcement arm of ODEQ), and talked with legislators, our Governor..... An article in the Dec, 15, 2010, Oregonian newspaper was titled, “Oregon embraces Intel, but in New Mexico, environmental doubts persist.” That article took me on a journey that has been arduous, scary, and uplifting because of the like-minded people I have met on the journey – in particular, Linda Peters, former Washington County Commissioner and chair who encouraged Intel to locate in Washington County in the 1980s. Linda expected Intel to be a good neighbor, but later testified before the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission (OEQC) that she wished she had not encouraged Intel to invest in Oregon because of the environmental damages – air, water and land – that Intel’s footprint is causing. I made a similar statement: “At least demand that Intel install the “BEST”, not just reasonable abatement control devices, as Intel applied for in their permit”. I testified at the ODEQ Intel Title V, Prevention of Significant Deterioration Air Quality Permit Hearing Oct. 14, 2013, and gave a copy of Boiling Frogs to the ODEQ Hearing Officer and later to Intel’s Regional Corporate Public Affairs Director, who said she already had a copy. I did not get a reply from Intel’s Public Affairs Director even though she coordinated the writing of responses to the official Hearing testimony. About twenty people testified at the Hearing and ODEQ finally released its summary of those extensive comments only after I made very assertive requests. I submitted copies of Boiling Frogs as part of my official Testimony, but Intel never addressed Boiling Frogs in their responses to that incriminating testimony. ODEQ permit writer George Davis said early on that ODEQ would rubber stamp Intel’s Air Quality permit, but later told me that they could not ignore the testimony at the Hearing and therefore recommended to the OEQC (the five member board appointed by the Governor to set policy, enforce environmental rules) that they impose penalties for Intel’s breaking the law/rules. On April 22, 2014, OEQC/ODEQ fined Intel $143,000 for three major violations: (1) Failing to notify ODEQ of its fluorides emissions for the purpose of regulating Intel as required by OAR (2) Beginning constructing of Fab D1X and Fab 20 without first obtaining the proper construction approval (3) Failing to obtain a permit to emit fluorides, a regulated pollutant. But OEQC/ODEQ allowed Intel to continue to build without a valid building permit. Click on this link to read the entire Mutual Agreement and Order between OEQC & Intel. The Oregon Department of Justice working for the OEQC fined Intel only $143,000 for those three major violations. This trivial $143,000 fine is just a slap on the wrist - equivalent to the profit Intel would earn in just eight minutes. But what Intel cannot change is the reality that they broke the law, got caught, and have not convinced many people living next to their five manufacturing plants in Washington County that the mix of substances in their current and future emissions are safe to breathe. Unfortunately, I’ve been told to expect state agencies and elected officials to give Intel anything and everything they request, including what Intel objected to in their permit application. Fred Marsh, a retired chemist who is quoted extensively in Boiling Frogs, told me: “We don't want Intel's Oregon neighbors to suffer the fate of Intel's New Mexico neighbors, who have experienced a rate of ALS 25 times higher than expected, and a rate of lethal pulmonary fibrosis nine times higher than expected, as well as a high incidence of other respiratory ailments.” “The claim that fluoride is not a health hazard is contradicted by hard facts, such as the leak of poisonous nitrogen trifluoride from a work station exhaust system at Intel’s microchip factory in Chandler, Arizona on June 29, 2013.” Marsh continued, “Chip making is sometimes called a “clean industry” because of the images of technicians in white lab suits working in ultra-clean rooms with shiny pristine silicon wafers. But it is estimated that on the average day of operations at a chip-making plant, four million gallons of wastewater are produced, and thousands of gallons of corrosive hazardous materials, like hydrochloric and sulfuric acid, are used.” Author Barbara Rockwell told me “If Intel were a flesh and blood person, you would have to treat them as you would a dangerous sociopath, not a reasonable, moral individual. You can't believe or trust anything they say or do. I think my book Boiling Frogs is a fair account of our experience so be forewarned. What's not included in my book is the death of Rosemary Keefe, a lovely woman, a retired English professor who was looking forward to a long and happy retirement. She died a year ago of pulmonary fibrosis after living in my old neighborhood just below Intel for just a few short years. She had a clean bill of health when she moved there and now she's dead. Doesn't get more final than that. Of course, Intel accepts no responsibility, they never have and they never will. My advice is to protect yourself and those you love, get as far away from the Intel plants as you can. I wish you well!” Intel’s Aloha, Oregon site has leaked toxic chemicals into the ground, some of which are the same chemicals that Intel used and abandoned in California. The former Mountain View site is now an EPA designated Superfund site. Will Aloha be the next Superfund Site Intel creates and abandons? In Nov 2014, Intel persuaded OEQC/ODEQ to adopt, for six months, a temporary rule that allows Intel to sidestep very important rules and regulations. Intel’s attorney argued to OEQC that the cost for Intel to be regulated by an appropriate permit would cost Intel (one of the world’s wealthiest corporations) too much money. The bottom line for Intel is not protecting and assuring the public that their health will be protected from toxic emissions, but rather saving money by not having to apply for a Federal Title V permit with Prevention of Significant Deterioration standards. It is unconscionable that OEQC/ODEQ may allow the Temporary Rule to become permanent and, thus, Intel will not be held to the highest current ODEQ standards of toxic and greenhouse gas emissions, and the highest Federal Standards for a Major Source emitter, which Intel is. Why is it unconscionable? - a cost of a few hundred thousand dollars is paltry compared to Intel’s $12 billion profits; but more importantly, Intel is asking to not be held to stricter controls so that only Reasonable Abatement Controls be installed on all of their emission stacks, avoiding Best Available (Achievable) Abatement Controls – Best Controls for Toxic emissions that are a much better protection of public health and welfare. Not only is Intel asking to emit tons of toxic air contaminates, but as a person concerned about Climate Change and the release of greenhouse gases, I became astonished that Intel applied to be able to release 819,000 tons of CO2 Equivalent per year, which calculates to 1.5 tons per minute which is 4 million pounds per day, which is 1.6 billion pounds per year. This puts Intel in the category of a Major Source greenhouse gas emitter, not far behind the coal-fired electricity producing plant in Eastern Oregon (over 2 million tons per year) and the three natural gas electricity producing plants (between 800,000 and 900,000 tons per year). Although I’m highly critical of Intel's minor-source permit and the way ODEQ has allowed Intel to operate, my objective is to protect the environment and the public, not punish Intel. We’re neighbors, and neighbors should try to work together for the common good. To begin with, the Good Neighbor Agreement we're negotiating with Intel Oregon must be more than an Intel PR effort to project a positive image, unlike the New Mexico Good Neighbor Agreement that Intel began violating before the ink was dry. We have no reason to trust Intel. Trust is something that must be earned, and Intel has given us many reasons for distrust. The motto to follow: “Trust, but verify”. If Intel in Oregon wants to earn our trust, they can begin by doing the following: 1. Intel should adopt the Supercritical Carbon Dioxide chip-cleaning process, developed at Los Alamos National Lab. This process would significantly reduce the amount of toxic chemicals Intel Oregon uses and releases, while decreasing water consumption by 90%. 2. Intel should continuously measure what they actually emit, rather than report calculated values, based on emission factors that may allow Intel to select whatever low number they want. 3. Next, Intel should install air monitors in nearby residential neighborhoods. If Intel emissions are as harmless as they claim, this is the perfect opportunity to prove it. Intel's unwillingness to measure what they put into the air their neighbors must breathe is the equivalent of taking the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination. One can only conclude that Intel opposes such monitors because they may confirm that the toxicity of residential air is dangerously high. If Intel is ready to make a genuine commitment to protect public health and the environment, I am willing to replace confrontation with cooperation. We - as stakeholders who have a vital interest in the outcome - are willing to work with Intel and ODEQ to develop a new permit that meets the legitimate needs of everyone. That would be the best possible outcome for all concerned. (Note: I am a member of the Air Quality Advisory Committee that was formed by the attorneys of NCA/NEDC to negotiate with Intel attorneys and Intel employees. I am not speaking for AQAC, but for the many community members who have contacted me before NCA/NEDC attorneys asked me to join their team. I have been and will continue to negotiate in good faith as defined by the Settlement Agreement. It has been made very clear that the regulatory agencies – ODEQ and EPA – are not part of the negotiations and I assume the outcome of the risk assessment and operational information of the plants will not be used as evidence in future permitting applications.) A new Federal Major-Source permit that has a Prevention of Significant Deterioration Standard would allow Intel to meet its production goals while using the “BEST” available abatement techniques on all emission stacks/locations to protect the environment and the health of its neighbors. Which, after all, is the proper function of any regulatory permit. To do less is to invite an environmental and human health disaster of frightening proportions.