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Portland residents complain of black dust coming from steel plant

Posted at 8:21 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 21:35:09-04

PORTLAND, Texas — Portland homeowners are still finding black dust, coming from the nearby Voestalpine plant on their homes and vehicles.

The dust leads to rust, causing more damage.

When folks in Portland, living near Voestalpine, wake up in the morning, they see black dust on their cars and homes.

That’s why Jeff Ferris is really busy these days. He runs an auto detailing business.

He’s using soap spray and putty to clean Brian Yoder’s truck.

“It basically sits there and eventually embeds in your clear coating,” Yoder said. “And gets thru your paint and starts corroding the vehicle.”

You have to look real close to see the dust, but it feels like sandpaper.

And it has been an ongoing problem in Portland pretty much since Voestalpine came to town in 2016.

Homeowners began filing lawsuits against the Austria-based steel manufacturer in 2017 and again in January 2019.

Attorney Austin Anderson represents more than 100 San Patricio County homeowners in a civil lawsuit, accusing Voestalpine of damaging their property by letting the dust escape from the plant because it wasn’t stored inside the plant.

“If this issue with the dust doesn’t stop, and if it continues on, then my clients deserve to have their homes taken care of in a meaningful way where this material is removed on a consistent basis. And they deserve their personal property and effects to be taken care of and cleaned as well, whether that be their vehicles or anything else that gets ruined or effected.”

In 2017, a TCEQ investigation found Voestalpine was responsible for the black dust, which could be found as far as 3 miles away from the plant.

These issues have been reported on Action Ten and other media since 2017.

”Now the rust is really starting to get bigger,” Ferris told us as he cleaned Brian Yoder’s truck. “Now they’re starting to see like, oh man, something’s bad.“

Voestalpine spokesperson Sandra Alvarez tells us the company has already invested $8 million toward dust mitigation and other upgrades to the facility.

One way they’re doing that is by offering free vouchers for a car wash and wax, or house cleaning to those who call and ask for one.

Voestalpine further says, although they disagree with some of the allegations made by the TCEQ, they have agreed to an order to improve the plant.