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J.H. Baxter and DEQ settle ahead of planned hearing

Truck entrance of the J.H. Baxter plant in Eugene, January 2022.
Brian Bull
Truck entrance of the J.H. Baxter plant in Eugene, January 2022.

Ahead of a scheduled hearing in August, wood treatment company J.H. Baxter has agreed to pay $305,000 for environmental violations at its now-shuttered Eugene plant.

The decision settles an agreement between J.H. Baxter and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, making the DEQ’s enforcement action and civil penalty final.

DEQ spokesperson Harry Esteve said Baxter will now have to pay the penalties, and take corrective action on the Eugene facility’s water quality and hazardous waste violations.

“The good thing about this is, is that it saves a lot of time and money in taxpayer dollars that would’ve been spent in preparing this legal case,” he told KLCC. “We don’t have to go to this hearing which is essentially a trial where you present evidence and have witnesses, and all that sort of thing.”

Meanwhile, analysis of soil samples taken from homes near the old J.H. Baxter plant in Eugene continue.

Esteve said last year, elevated levels of dioxins were found in neighboring yards and gardens. Those chemical compounds are toxic and can cause health problems.

Esteve says they’ve collected 27 samples from homes in recent weeks, as DEQ officials try to gauge the extent of the contamination.

“We haven’t gotten the results from those samples back. But once we get them, then we’ll use those results to determine whether we need to clean up more than the three yards that’ve already been targeted for clean-up.”

That clean-up was initially scheduled for summer, but Esteve says it may be pushed back to this fall.

The Baxter wood processing facility closed in January, after 80 years of operation. It has long been the focus of complaints, probes, and environmental concerns.

Copyright @2022, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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