- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 11, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A state judge has issued a gag order to prevent officials from discussing the high levels of a cancer-causing chemical they found in the air near a battery parts maker in Lebanon, Oregon.

Linn County Circuit Court Judge Thomas McHill issued the order on Friday at Entek International’s request, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported (https://bit.ly/2o3HYhb). McHill said the preliminary findings by the state environmental and health regulators could cause the battery company irreparable harm.

Regulators found high levels of a cancer-causing chemical called trichloroethylene near Entek through computer modeling, public court records show. Officials argued it is more than 70 times higher than what is considered safe.

State and health environment officials had planned to inform the community of the pollution.

In the lawsuit filed against Department of Environmental Quality on Thursday, Entek argued the emission is within its permitted limits and said the state would only “unnecessarily alarm Entek employees and members of the community by distributing information.”

The company’s attorneys, Joel Mullin and Stephen Galloway, did not respond to a request for comment.

McHill’s order is unprecedented in the state, said a department spokeswoman and several environmental attorneys.

“If the agencies are forced to respond to inquiries from the public by explaining that it cannot answer any questions because Entek has secured a court order to keep the monitoring secret, it is entirely possible that Entek’s reputation will be worse off, not better,” an Oregon Department of Justice attorney argued in a brief.

Entek and state department representatives will return to court Wednesday.

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, https://www.oregonlive.com

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