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.

Monday, July 10, 2017

FTIR Goes to Oregon

The sophisticated infrared air monitoring device purchased with villagers’ donations in 2002 to detect and measure industrial chemicals emitted by Intel’s factories on the mesa above Corrales has been transferred to a citizens’ group in Portland, Oregon for a similar effort. Dale Feik, campaign director for Hillsboro Air and Water, has followed the work of Corrales Residents for Clean Air and Water (CRCAW) for many years. He and others have learned from the effort here to demand better control over chemical releases from Intel’s microchip-making facilities in Oregon. Private donations, mainly from Corrales residents, raised more than $93,000 to buy a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer manufactured in Canada. The device, which bounces an infrared beam through the air to a reflector and back, measures how chemicals in the air alter the beam. Each chemical leaves a distinctive signature read and is measured by the spectrometer. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXI No.15 September 21, 2002 “Corrales Will Buy It’s Own Air Pollution Monitor.”) For several years, crucially in the 2003-2005 time frame, the equipment was deployed at villagers’ property below Intel. It was primarily operated by retired Los Alamos labs chemist Fred Marsh, who moved from Corrales to Washington state in 2005. Because CRCAW did not have tax exempt status, donations for the FTIR were channeled to Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) which did. So the Albuquerque-based non-profit actually owned the device and paid for its maintenance and re-calibration for some time. It was put in storage some time back; complaints about chemical emissions from Intel have decreased markedly since the corporation installed “smoke” stacks at the appropriate height in 2011. Upon learning that SWOP had passed the FTIR on to clean air activists in Oregon, former CRCAW co-founder Barbara Rockwell, author of Boiling Frogs: Intel versus the village, welcomed the transfer. “I’m so pleased and happy to hear that the FTIR has been passed on! This is great news. It feels good to see the work begun by CRCAW continued and strengthened by Hillsboro Air and Water. “Hillsboro Air and Water’s chances of success in such a progressive state as Oregon are so much better than here in corrupt New Mexico,” Rockwell wrote to Feik. She and her family moved out of Corrales to escape from the emissions, relocating to Placitas. Another organizer of the fundraising drive to buy the FTIR, CRCAW member Martha Egan, echoed Rockwell’s commendation. “As a long-time Corrales resident, I salute you, and I’m pleased your group is the new owner of the FTIR. Many of us helped purchase the instrument, although it wasn’t used as much as we would have liked. “I do think, however, its very presence, together with our efforts, especially a member’s campaign to bring in the Environmental Protection Agency, helped convince Intel to shape up and at least mitigate its toxic emissions. “We fought a long, hard battle. The State of New Mexico was not only unsupportive of our protest of Intel’s sham air pollution permit, they were downright dismissive and adversarial, Republicans and Democrats alike. “Some of those who fought the hardest for our right to breathe uncontaminated air have died; many residents lost beloved animals. Reports of high incidences of miscarriages, pulmonary fibrosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease and other health crises in our community could be linked to Intel’s air pollution, but no one seems interested in studying this.” Egan urged Oregonians to read Rockwell’s book. “It’s quite a saga, a well-written, compelling tale of ordinary citizens’ efforts to stand up to corporate arrogance, government indifference and ultimately, public policies that favor profits over people.” When Marsh was analyzing data from the FTIR here, he announced in 2004 that one of the Intel chemicals detected that could cause illnesses here was the semiconductor industry chemical hexafluoroethane. Other chemicals were also suspect. Data from the EPA’s FTIR, when it was deployed around Intel in 2003, pointed to hydrogen fluoroide, among others. In an email to Marsh and other CRCAW members earlier this month, Feik reported that “currently numerous neighborhood associations in Portland are working together to raise $6,000 to purchase new software required to deploy this state-of-the-art detection and measurement device. “In 2016, we began canvassing door to door in Hillsboro. Over 100 people donated to the campaign to have the health of local residents be included in government regulation of Intel’s Washingon County operations. Recently, the State of Oregon agreed human health should be included in industrial air pollution regulation and is negotiating with us and other groups throughout the state. This is called Cleaner Air Oregon.”