On Jan. 12, 2023, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality launched a public survey to help its Air Quality Monitoring Team determine and prioritize 20 locations for new SensORs to measure air quality from wildfire smoke across the state. SensORs, which were first developed by DEQ’s Laboratory in 2019, are lower-cost monitors that collect timely particulate matter 2.5 data and display it over DEQ’s Air Quality Index.
Currently, DEQ has more than 70 PM2.5 monitoring locations across Oregon. As a result of the devastating fires in 2020, the 2021 state legislature passed Senate Bill 762 , which provides funding for 20 more SensORs to be deployed in regions with few to no monitors.
While DEQ has compiled a list of proposed areas, it would like public input to refine and prioritize it before starting the process of determining specific sites.
The list of proposed locations is based on the following:
• Counties and areas without monitors in the existing network. Typically, these are coastal or interior counties with low populations.
• Areas commonly affected by wildfire smoke.
• Regions where underrepresented communities are disproportionately affected by PM2.5 and wildfires, including rural areas.
• Input from agency partners and other interested parties, such as the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon Health Authority.
There are sections of the survey that allow participants to suggest areas of the state that are not on the proposed list. DEQ’s Air Quality Monitoring team is open to ideas.
“In the past, we have used a complex formula of criteria, including meteorology, topography, emission sources and availability of infrastructure to determine air quality monitoring locations,” said Lori Pillsbury, administrator for DEQ’s Laboratory and Environmental Assessment Division. “Those continue to be important elements for the final locations. However, we recognize it’s also important to consult with those who know our state best – the people living in the various regions. We are eager to hear where they believe SensORs should go next for the most comprehensive data collection.”
Particulate Matter is a mix of tiny particles and liquid droplets found in air. Sources include wildfires, automobiles, woodstoves and more. PM2.5 measures 2.5 microns in diameter and smaller (As a comparison, the average strand of human hair is 70 microns in diameter). When inhaled, it can lodge deep in the lungs and remain there a long time, aggravating asthma, heart disease and other respiratory and heart conditions. Understanding high levels of PM 2.5 means state agencies can focus more resources, such as wildfire and smoke preparation materials and smoke management community response plans and gran… , toward those areas.
You can always check current air quality conditions on DEQ’s Air Quality Index or by downloading the free OregonAIR app, which is available for smartphones.
Those interested in participating can find the survey at: https://ordeq.org/AQSensORSurvey.
Responses will be accepted through Feb. 1, 2023. For questions about the survey, send an email to Questions.AQM@deq.oregon.gov.
By Susan C. Mills, DEQ public affairs specialist