The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the importance of science to inform both government response and individual action. Climate science is used in a similar way to shape decision-making that can deliver a safe, equitable and sustainable future.
At the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, science is the cornerstone of the work we do to better understand the health of Oregon’s environment.
With just 82 employees, the Oregon Laboratory and Environmental Assessment Division, DEQ’s lab, provides the scientific and technical capacity to respond quickly to a broad range of emerging issues and unprecedented events, such as wildfires, that affect public health and the environment.
One way the lab supports the environmental protection functions of the state is to monitor and analyze environmental samples from groundwater, surface water, wastewater, sediment, air, soil and hazardous waste.
Among the most visible work the lab does occurs every summer when data on wildfire smoke and harmful algae blooms is particularly critical. DEQ relies on the data to determine when to issue air advisories or to report on HABs in recreational waters. This first week of May is when the lab’s statewide drinking water cyanotoxin montoring program begins testing on watersheds to look for conditions that may lead to HABs. May also happens to be Wildfire Awareness Month, a good time to review preparedness and air quality resources.
The lab reported statistics on some work conducted over the last year:
- Took and received more than 10,000 samples of air, land and water
- Processed, analyzed and reported nearly 57,000 analyses
- Conducted more than 775 site visits to collect water quality samples for water quality programs
- Maintained and reported on nine air toxics sites
- Kept critical information systems, such as the Air Quality Index, online and running
- Set-up 20 SensORs to bring us to a total of 60 PM2.5 real-time, AQI locations
- Uploaded thousands of rows of data into the Ambient Water Quality Monitoring System
Without the laboratory and lab personnel, DEQ would not have evidenced-based, high quality and defensible data to identify and monitor for environmental contaminants in air, land and water throughout Oregon.
–Jennifer K. Flynt, public affairs specialist
A sample of news releases that illustrate the lab’s work:
Water samples show low levels of fuel chemicals in North Santiam River following OR 22 spill
DEQ Laboratory releases air toxics monitoring summary
DEQ updates interactive map of Oregon’s water quality
Wildfire smoke brings record poor air quality to Oregon, new data shows
Oregon wildfires, smoke prompt a coordinated response
Knowing the colors of the air quality index
DEQ Laboratory releases Willamette River Basin Water Toxics Summary
DEQ Lab releases groundwater quality report for Oregon’s Walla Walla Basin
State natural resource agencies report improvements in water quality in parts of Oregon
Oregon DEQ releases 2020 Oregon Water Quality Index
Check out “What is an environmental testing laboratory? (Captioned)” from APHL on Vimeo.
Fun for kids: Flat Labby Adventures and coloring pages
Need to relax and get your creative brain moving? Print out one of these fun coloring pages. Grab some markers and colored pencils and bring me to life! Express your enthusiasm for public health labs, or just use me to brag about your art skills on social media!