Chipman Chemical Plant

The Chipman Chemical facility was located north of downtown Portland, Oregon on the banks of the Willamette River. From the very beginning it was a developer of pesticides and herbicides, and later would become one of the many facilities contracted to experiment with more dangerous forms of toxins for the U.S. Government.

Chipman Chemical was one of eight chemical developers built under the guidance of Ralph N. Chipman, who organized the building of the Portland facility to create not only pesticides but also their basic ingredients. For decades the company produced not only weed killers and defoliate chemicals, but also Agent Orange and a host of substances, including DDT, that are now completely banned.

The company routinely dumped its waste sludge into a pond near the Willamette River, often tossing entire barrels of unused chemical residues into landfills that were later covered up and built on. This process of contaminating the area near the chemical plant went on into the 1970s, when a massive cleanup began and the plant itself, along with others like it, had to shut down or reorganize because of the banning of the chemicals they were creating. Even today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still reporting the presence of dioxins in the waters of Doane Lake and nearby wetlands.

Asbestos was used extensively in chemical plants, power stations and metal works. The fibrous material is an effective insulator and fireproofing agent, and it is likely Chipman Chemical used asbestos as insulation since it had a huge number of heating kettles and boiler rooms at its plant location. Asbestos was also utilized in the form of fireboards and ceiling tiles, and could be mixed with paints to coat pipes and electrical wires.

The danger of asbestos lies in the chemistry of the silicate fibers, which are friable and float freely in the air. If inhaled over a period of time, the fibers can act as a carcinogen, causing asbestosis, and more severely, mesothelioma even 20 to 50 after initial contact. Asbestos can possibly be added to one of several major environmental issues at the Chipman Chemical Plant in Portland, which was considered by many who were employed there as the most dangerous work habitat in the city. Many who endure long-term exposure to asbestos have not yet shown symptoms, which is normal for mesothelioma and other complications related to these dangerous fibers.


Department of Environmental Quality