Oregon family seeks to change hazardous waste statute

A family in Oregon is fighting a state statue that does not allow victims of groundwater or soil pollution to collect legal fees in the event that they win their case.

Steve and Debbie Mangold of Oregon City discovered in 2007 when they were considering selling their property that their home had unsafe levels of gasoline contamination in the soil and groundwater, the result of leaks in a neighbor's underground tanks of gasoline. The Mangolds removed 955 tons of contaminated soil and installed 20-foot wells to continually evaluate the groundwater quality. They filed a civil lawsuit against their neighbors, but settled in 2008 when they could no longer afford the legal fees. They hope to change the statute to not only cover costs of litigation, but also allow victims to seek compensation for contamination that has occurred more than a decade before.

“They have spent a huge amount of their financial resources to fight as hard as they can to get what is a reasonably fair result, at great risk to themselves,”  their attorney Brooks Foster told the Portland Tribune. “It’s something that few people in their position would have been able to do.”

Oregon extends full health care to all children

A bill to be signed today in Portland by Gov. Ted Kulongoski is designed to guarantee medical, dental, vision and mental health care to 80,000 uninsured children in Oregon, reports Bill Graves of The Oregonian. Oregon is one of 12 states to take this step. Under the new law, a 1 percent tax will be placed on hospitals and most insurers to cover the previously uninsured children. The new law led to the creation of the Office of Healthy Kids, and about 100 new workers to handle the influx of new children. The extended coverage is intended for those who can’t afford the additional cost of insuring their children, or who don’t qualify for the Oregon Health Plan.

Tribe's lumber business thrives amid downturn

With the timber industry in a severe downturn, one Indian tribe has found a thriving market for its wood -- Japanese homebuilders. The trick for the mill on the Warm Springs Reservation in north central Oregon was to re-tool the mill to cut in metric lengths and widths, Anna King reports for Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Building green costs extra, OR schools find

Despite Oregon's environmentalist image, only one-quarter of the schools approved by voters since 2006 are built to national "green building" standards. Some schools, citing the high costs and paperwork associated with obtaining a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design medallion, are building what they call "LEED equivalent" schools, writes Wendy Owen in The Oregonian. That's pretty much an honor system, though.

Green jobs going strong in OR

Jobs in wind power, solar energy and other "green" fields show signs of continuing to grow despite the recession, Kate Ramsayer reports for the Bend Bulletin. Some of the state-identified "green" jobs aren't what one might attach to loving the earth, though. For example, the biggest 2008-2010 forecast increase, 68 percent, is for "community and social services."

OR Housing authority saw crisis coming but did not act

The Daily Astorian is out with a special report today that says the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority knew well it was facing a financial crisis but failed to act. The result: Hundreds of poor families have lost their housing assistance. At least some are out on the street. The story by Cassandra Profita and Deeda Schroeder says "records obtained by The Daily Astorian and sources familiar with the program indicate it was NOHA's mismanagement of federal funds that created the deficit."

One in six Oregonians now on food stamps

The number of Oregonians on food stamps has increased 28 percent, and now about one in six residents of the state is eligible, Oregon Public Broadcasting's Kristian Foden-Vencil reports. A family of four is eligible on earnings of $800 a month or less.

Columbia River barges involved in 5 mishaps

Tidewater Barge Lines vessels carrying a total of more than six million gallons of gasoline have been involved in five mishaps on the Columbia River in the last year and a half. Scott Learn of the Oregonian reports that officials have little to say about the incidents, citing confidentiality of ongoing investigations that have lasted up to 16 months. Three times the vessels went aground. The other two involved accidents at locks. The Vancouver, Wash.-based company's barges all have double hulls and multiple cargo compartments to reduce the likelihood of a spill from grounding, and reduce the amount of any spill. The company's last spill was in 1993.