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Restoring beauty and justice for the Klamath River

DEQ Director Richard Whitman recently stumbled on a 1958 KGW-TV documentary Crisis in the Klamath Basin. According to the Oregon Historical Society, the piece broke important new ground for television and the young producer, Tom McCall, who later would serve eight years as Oregon governor. McCall’s first documentary followed shortly after Congress voted to begin terminating treaty tribes, and previewed the disestablishment of the Klamath reservation of over a million acres.

“It was fascinating,” Whitman said. “I had never seen that kind of first-hand narrative about how tribal members felt about losing their reservation, losing their rights as a sovereign nation.”

The historic agreement to fund the removal of four lower Klamath River dams, announced Tuesday, represents a huge step forward in restoring not just miles of free-flowing rivers and lakes for fish, but also restoring some part of the cultural and social identity that the Klamath River tribes have had taken from them over the last 100 years. 

“I view the tribes as leading stewards of our environment and natural resources here in the Pacific Northwest,” Whitman said. “They have never lost their connection to the land and water and the life that depends on them.”

“I view the tribes as leading stewards of our environment and natural resources here in the Pacific Northwest,” Whitman said. “They have never lost their connection to the land and water and the life that depends on them.”

That’s why the agreement signed Tuesday – which makes it clear that the owner of the dams, Berkshire-Hathaway/PacifiCorp, supports dam removal, along with Oregon and California –  is such a big deal.

“It’s the states and Berkshire-Hathaway all saying: We are all in on restoring this resource to the tribes. This is a critical leading edge in the effort to put the environment in this part of Oregon back into balance.”

Klamath River

The Klamath salmon run once was the third largest in the nation, but the numbers have dwindled to near extinction levels after the dams were built cutting off hundreds of miles of habitat, and as water quality has steadily gotten worse.

“Their reservations were taken from them, their use of forest resources was taken from them and, over time, the fisheries are being taken from them,” Whitman said about the region’s tribes.

DEQ has a big responsibility to improve conditions in the Klamath, which runs nearly 260 miles from Klamath Falls through northern California. The dams create stagnant pools, which increase water temperature and contribute to harmful algae blooms and disease.

Removing the dams will have benefits rippling throughout the watershed, paving the way for fish to return to the upper basin, and opening the door to economic opportunity for the entire community.  However, more work remains to be done, and a next area of focus needs to be on working with farmers and ranchers in the basin to reduce nutrients that have overwhelmed Upper Klamath Lake, Whitman said.

“DEQ will have a central role in that work, along with the Department of Agriculture and local leaders,” he said. “We know the community can collaborate when it has a shared vision for a better future, and working with PacifiCorp and other partners we are beginning to help build a clear picture of a future that has a place for everyone.”

–Harry Esteve, DEQ communications manager

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COVID, wildfire work shines spotlight on DEQ’s Angela Rowland

Before the global pandemic and the Oregon wildfires this year, Angela Rowland was working full-time as a Water Quality Permitting Policy Analyst at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The job she signed up for on Oct. 1, 2019 quickly morphed into something no one could’ve expected. This year, while continuing her water quality program work, she also became one of the most valuable players on DEQ’s COVID-19 and Wildfire Response and Recovery teams.

“Angela has been the absolute guiding star of DEQ’s emergency response planning section and Incident Command team,” according to Kimberlee Van-Patten, who has been leading the planning effort for both the COVID and wildfire responses.

Deployed on April 1 to an Incident Command System team for DEQ’s COVID-19 response efforts, Rowland served as the Resource Unit Leader in the Planning Section. Her research on COVID-19 science-based information meant DEQ could provide accurate updates on the agency’s response to the coronavirus, keep staff safe and continue to protect public health and the environment. Her work included developing new protocols for fieldwork and inspections to determine what essential work could still be performed safely.

On Sept. 15, DEQ set up an Incident Command team for Wildfire Response. “I remember that I was busy collecting data from the COVID-19 staff survey on DEQ’s response when the Labor Day wind storm stirred up the worst Oregon wildfire disaster on record,” Rowland said. She said it was hard to grasp the full scope of the disaster, which left thousands without homes and burned roughly 1.07 million acres of Oregon forests. “My family had a camping trip reserved at Detroit Lake for Labor Day, and our hearts are broken for the town of Detroit (which was destroyed) and all across Oregon,” she said.

She serves as the Documentation Unit Leader in the Planning Section to ensure that every deliverable is tracked and she coordinates the regular “situational updates” to keep all staff informed of the wildfire response and recovery efforts. Rowland said, “I want to provide managers and staff with as much information as possible to help them in their everyday work, be it for COVID-19 precautions or staff getting phone calls from the public who are concerned about asbestos in their burned out home.”

In any crisis, information swarms in from every direction. The need to make sure it goes up the chain of command just as fast requires someone who can create clarity amid chaos. That’s Rowland!

“I see a bright future for Angela Rowland here at DEQ,” Van-Patten says. “We are lucky to have her on our team.”

In her free time she enjoys watching Star Wars, playing board games with her two kids, walking her dogs, camping, gardening, and telling “mom” jokes.

— Jennifer K. Flynt, public affairs specialist

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DEQ Laboratory releases Willamette River Basin Water Toxics Summary

Oregon Willamette Basin

If you have been wondering if the Willamette River Basin is safe for swimming, the overall answer is yes. However, whether or not the river is pollutant-free, requires more of a deeper dive.

This week, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality released the Willamette Basin Toxics Monitoring Summary. It combines water, sediment and tissue sampling results from DEQ’s Toxics Monitoring Program in the Willamette River Basin from 2008 to 2010 and 2016. The goals of the assessment are as follow:

  • Get a snapshot of pollutants in the Willamette River Basin to help understand trends
  • Use the data to identify potential sources
  • Make the information available to the public
  • Work with internal DEQ groups, community groups and those living in Oregon to identify opportunities to reduce the pollutants
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-3.png
Clockwise above from upper left: DEQ’s Kara Goodwin collecting a sediment sample, crayfish collected in the Willamette River, DEQ’s Dan Brown collecting crayfish, sampling bottles and gear for a water collection.

Between the two studies included in the summary, 238 samples were collected from 47 monitoring locations. They were analyzed for various chemical groups, including current-use and legacy pesticides, consumer-use products, combustion by-products, dioxins and furans, flame retardants, industrial chemicals, PCBs and metals. The monitoring locations were divided into three sub-basins (Lower, Mid and Upper) to give attention to the diverse regions of the Willamette Basin.

In 2016, water samples were collected three times (spring, summer and fall), while sediment and tissue samples were collected once. Also, tissue samples, crayfish and mussels were collected to help gain an accurate picture of the environment at each sampling location.

Sub-basin Findings

Click here to see full infographic on findings.

Key findings in the sub-basins include:

Lower

  • Legacy pesticide concentrations remain high when compared to concentrations in the 2008-2010 study. Legacy pesticides are banned from use, indicating residual sources in the basin.
  • Mercury found in crayfish at the Willamette River at the St. John’s Bridge location exceeded DEQ’s human health criterion. The criterion assumes a consumption rate of 175 grams per day. This area is part of the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

Mid

  • Mercury found in crayfish at the Willamette River at Marion St. location exceeded DEQ’s human health criterion.
  • Concentrations of DDT exceeded its sediment benchmark across the Mid-Willamette basin. Concentrations at this level are not expected to adversely affect human health.

Upper

  • High concentrations of the herbicide diuron detected in water from Lake Creek do not pose a risk to human health.
  • DEQ detected 152 chemicals in sediment collected downstream from a stormwater outfall near Maurie Jacobs Park. The detected chemicals were not found at concentrations that pose a risk to park users.

Based on the results of this study, 11 monitoring locations were selected to become part of the Toxics Monitoring Program’s trend network. It consists of 60 monitoring sites across the state, representing each major river basin, as well as locations with elevated concentrations of chemicals of concern and background locations. DEQ’s Laboratory will collect water samples at these sites three times annually. Sediment and tissue samples will be collected once annually. All sampling depends on Lab resources and approval to travel during the pandemic.

Additionally, the results from the summary will be used to inform several existing DEQ efforts, including the DEQ Integrated Toxics Reduction Strategy, the Integrated 303 (b) and (d) Reports for the federal Clean Water Act, and Total Maximum Daily Load, National Pollution Discharge Elimination System and stormwater permitting and regulatory programs. This will ensure that the waters of the Willamette River Basin continue to meet water quality standards and are safe places for people to recreate.

Click here see the monitoring summary infographic

— Dan Brown, water quality assessment specialist

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Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force to hold Annual Meeting virtually on Nov. 18

Western states and provinces along the Pacific Ocean will gather virtually this year for the Oil Spill Task Force 31st Annual Meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020 from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. The event is open to the public and attendance is free of charge. To register, go to: http://oilspilltaskforce.org/task-force-events/annual-meeting/

Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force was authorized by a Memorandum of Cooperation in 1989 by Governors of Alaska, Oregon, Washington and California, and the Premier of British Columbia following the Nestucca oil spill in 1988 and the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.

On Dec. 22, 1988, the tug, Ocean Service, collided with the barge, Nestucca, which spilled more than 230,000 gallons of fuel oil into the Pacific Ocean near Grays Harbor, Washington. The resulting oil slick dispersed over 800 square miles from Grays Harbor north to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada and south to Oregon.

The catastrophic spill of the tanker Exxon Valdez occurred in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. These two events highlighted in a dramatic way the vulnerability of the West Coast states and British Columbia to spill risks from coastal marine traffic. Awareness arose of the importance of cross-border coordination and cooperation, and the need for firm commitments to protect the unique marine resources of the region.

To develop strategies to adapt to changes in oil movement and risks, the Task Force began collecting data on spills greater than a barrel (42 gallons) in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington in 2002. In 2017, tracking of the number of spills of less than a barrel began.

Comprised of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii, the Task Force provides a forum where members can work together to help protect 56,600 miles of coastline stretching from Alaska to California, including the Hawaiian Islands. They are united in their efforts in oil spill prevention, response, preparedness and recovery across the West Coast.

This year the Annual Meeting will focus on how COVID-19 has changed the Task Force’s work and operations, and lessons learned from responding to spills and conduction exercises in a virtual world.

The Task Force Executive Members include:

For more information visit: http://oilspilltaskforce.org/task-force-events/annual-meeting/

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Wildfire cleanup begins in Jackson County

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began removing hazardous waste from burned homes and businesses in Jackson County in mid-October 2020. This is the first step in the wildfire cleanup and rebuilding process. Hazardous waste cleanup is available at NO COST to property owners. Property owners must sign a Right of Entry form with their county to allow cleanup crews on their property.

Learn more at https://wildfire.oregon.gov/cleanup

Jackson County sustained the majority of Oregon’s damage from the 2020 Labor Day fires. Cleanup crews started work in Jackson County, then expanded to other areas of the state.

The State of Oregon’s Debris Management Task Force is overseeing a coordinated effort by federal, state, and local government agencies to address hazardous waste and debris removal. The task force consists of the Office of Emergency Management, Oregon Department of Transportation, and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Check hazardous waste cleanup progress at https://r10data.response.epa.gov/ORfi…

Video courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Oct. 24, 2020

Featured

Amid destruction, hope for recovery and rebuilding

When the Almeda Fire began ripping through the Bear Creek Valley in Southern Oregon, John Vial called his wife and daughter from his desk at the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center to tell them they needed to evacuate from their home. “My wife asked me what she should take,” said Vial. “I told her I don’t care, leave everything. Just get out and get to a safe place. Do it now.”

Vial’s home survived the fire. Thousands of others in Jackson County did not.

Vial is the director of the Jackson County Emergency Operations Center, and has been tirelessly leading wildfire recovery efforts for the county.

Jackson County sustained over 60% of the state’s damage from the 2020 Oregon wildfires—losing over  2,400 homes and 173 businesses. The towns of Talent and Phoenix were especially hard hit, with entire subdivisions completely destroyed. 

Members of Oregon’s Debris Management Task Force traveled to Jackson County last week to meet with Vial and survey the damage in these communities.

Members of Oregon’s Debris Management Task survey wildfire damage in Jackson County.

What we saw was absolutely devastating: block after block after block of homes and businesses completely destroyed. The occasional brick chimney stood intact among gray fields of ash and debris, twisted metal and car skeletons. Eighteen mobile home communities were wiped out—many of them low-income, over 55, or Latinx communities.

“We really are in a category of our own. I want people to see it, because it helps you understand the level of devastation we’re dealing with here,” said Vial.

To put things in perspective: the Phoenix-Talent School District estimated last week that about 30 percent of its students lost their homes to wildfire. 30 percent. That number has been fluctuating, and could be even higher.

The Debris Management Task Force consists of the Oregon Department of Emergency Management, Department of Environmental Quality, and Department of Transportation. Core members include Brian Boling of Oregon DEQ and Mac Lynde of ODOT, Alyssa Carrier and Cameron Morris of AC Disaster Consulting, which is a contractor for OEM, and two public information officers, Lauren Wirtis and myself, Laura Gleim, who both work for Oregon DEQ.

Wildfire destruction in Jackson County, Oregon, Fall 2020

The goal of the task force is to help ensure that people can return to their homes and their lives as quickly as possible – but that is going to take time and a lot of hard, hands-on work. Beginning next week, crews from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will begin removing hazardous materials from properties whose owners have signed right of entry forms through their respective counties. First up is Jackson County, with crews expanding to other counties in the coming weeks. Once the hazards are cleared, the properties will be ready for step two in the cleanup process: full removal of the remaining ash and debris. Then people can rebuild.

Seeing the destruction up close left us stunned—but also more determined than ever to help Oregon recover from its worst natural disaster in modern history.

Find more information about this effort at wildfire.oregon.gov/cleanup

—Laura Gleim, public affairs specialist

Featured

From former grocery store to the Garden of Surging Waves, a Brownfields success story

As we prepare for Oregon’s Brownfields and Infrastructure Summit on Oct. 5 and 6, we’re taking a look back at some of the work carried out by the Department of Environmental Quality. The Northwest Environmental Business Council, summit host, invited nearly a dozen DEQ staff to speak at the event. “The summit brings together those working to make contaminated properties economically viable for reuse and demonstrate the interconnectedness of basic infrastructure with community and economic development,” NEBC.

What is a Brownfield?

Brownfields are properties that are not being used to their full potential because of known or suspected environmental pollution. Brownfields are often left idle due to fears about liability and expense of assessment and cleanup.

Cleaning up and reinvesting in Brownfields protects the environment, reduces blight and brings valuable property back to use. It can also provide services, such as industrial or commercial development, house or open spaces for playing fields and parks.

Brownfield redevelopment success stories

Left: Photo courtesy of Clatsop County Historical Society. Right: Heritage Square, 2014, DEQ

In the City of Astoria, Oregon sits one of DEQ’s many Brownfield redevelopment success stories. The Garden of Surging Waves, a public park, took the place of part of an abandoned city block known as Heritage Square. The Garden honors Chinese immigrants who worked in the canneries and other industries in the early 1900s.

Thanks to a $400,000 Brownfields grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2012, the City of Astoria had funds to pay for environmental assessment and remediation/cleanup of the Heritage Square block.

The City worked with DEQ and a consultant on plans to collect soil and groundwater samples to understand the extent of contamination.

The property had an interesting past. It was once the home of an automobile repair garage and paint shop, a used car sales business, a dry cleaning establishment, a newspaper printing company, and a Safeway grocery store. The grocery store was demolished in 2005 and five years later the remains caved 10 feet below street level.

Previous uses left behind soil and groundwater contamination. Soil and testing showed that these past uses resulted in releases of petroleum and solvents to the soil and groundwater beneath the Heritage Square block and adjacent streets.

After the remediation/cleanup, the new community gathering space opened on May 17, 2014. The Garden of Surging Waves is phase 1 of the project. Additional cleanup is needed prior to development of the remainder of the site, which is expected to be public space.

Other projects

Completed in 2014, a former landfill turned into a sports complex in the City of Astoria, creating revenue for the school district and freeing up land for expansion of Columbia Memorial Hospital.
Cully Park in Northeast Portland used to an abandoned landfill. In 2018, it became a 25-acre urban park with a playground, trails, Native Gathering Gardens thanks to Living CullyPortland Parks & Recreation, with support and Brownfields funding from EPA and DEQ.

–Jennifer K. Flynt, public affairs specialist

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Breakthroughs in detecting Harmful Algal Blooms using satellite imagery

Photo of Odell Lake, Oregon in 2020 by Sam Doak at Sunset Cove

Satellite imagery is proving to be an effective and essential tool to detect harmful algal blooms, or HABs, in Oregon’s lakes, rivers and reservoirs. Brian Fulfrost, a water quality analyst with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, has led an effort to add satellite imagery to a series of tools that a new  team of specialists are using to monitor and assess potential cyanobacteria HABs.

Cyanobacteria HABs are blue green algae that can produce toxins and odors depending on conditions including warm temperatures, slow water flow and strong light. HABs have reportedly caused the deaths of dogs and made humans ill. DEQ monitors, samples and tests waters to look for the presence of HABs and to identify potential risks.

“Improving our ability to detect imminent harmful algal blooms in lakes and reservoirs will allow us to better protect human health, local economies, and ecosystems throughout Oregon” says Dr. Daniel Sobota, water quality analyst at DEQ. Sobota is leading an effort to create an early warning system to detect HABs across Oregon. Part of that effort includes collecting satellite data and correlating the results with on-the-ground monitoring at multiple lakes and reservoirs in the upper Deschutes River basin in central Oregon.

EPA Cyanobacteria Assessment Network (CyAn) images of alage bloom monitored over time at Odell Lake, Oregon in 2020

DEQ is using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Cyanobacteria Assessment Network (CyAN), which includes access to satellite imagery data from mid-2016 to present. Fulfrost saw the opportunity to use satellite imagery of HABs as a more efficient way to support the work DEQ and OHA do to help evaluate, along with sampling and expert opinion, when potential public health advisory on recreational and drinking water safety might be warranted.

Salem, Oregon, May 2018

“This tool has enhanced our ability to protect water quality throughout the state. The satellite imagery can provide cyanobacteria counts for about 60 lakes within Oregon,” says Fulfrost. “The tool calculates the potential volume of cyanobacteria every one to two days within water bodies using the imagery.”

The satellite alone cannot detect toxins in cyanobacteria, but it is possible with additional monitoring methods, including sampling and a strong team. Sobota helped assemble the Harmful Algal Bloom Coordination Team this year to improve the agency’s HABs monitoring program and water quality projects such as developing pollution reduction plans and the analyses involving satellite imagery.

Map by Dan Brown, DEQ, April 2019
Featured

DEQ supports electric transportation awareness, features mobile app game

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is proud to support Oregoin’ Electric, a statewide electric transportation awareness campaign. In partnership with the Oregon Clean Fuels Program, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power launched the campaign and its supporting mobile gaming app in August.

The app was developed with funds generated from the sale of Oregon Clean Fuels Program credits.

It’s part of an ongoing effort to make electric transportation accessible to all people in Oregon. The campaign and app aim to inspire people to choose electric as part of their everyday routine— now and into the future.

The app is available to download now at the Apple App and Google Play stores. App users virtually explore electrified points of interest across Oregon and play for prizes while learning how to get around on electric bikes, buses, cars and more on a daily basis.

app overview

Players engage with electric transportation content through Learn, Play and Share features to earn points, advance levels and unlock prizes. Through gameplay, players earn recognition at individual, county and statewide levels.

In addition to being prompted to engage in daily games, players can discover electric transportation initiatives suited to their interests through the app’s Explore feature. 

Download today at the Apple App and Google Play stores and level up to win before gameplay ends on Oct. 31, 2020.

Learn more at http://oregoinelectric.com and by following #OregoinElectric on social media.

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Columbia River Basin pollution reduction projects receive $2 million EPA grant

By prioritizing river health, clean water and equitable and inclusive community involvement, a river can be one of a community’s greatest assets.

A total of 14 projects to reduce pollution in the Columbia River Basin watersheds will get $2 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which includes $800,000 for six Oregon-based restoration projects, EPA announced in September.

Watersheds, also known as a catchment or river basins, are the entire upstream land area that drains to a certain point on a river. A healthier basin benefits humans as well as struggling salmon populations. 

The Columbia River Basin Restoration Funding Assistanc… is the grant source. The program was established in 2016 through an amendment to the Clean Water Act, sponsored by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.

“Our rivers and waterways are at the heart of our communities, and if they are dirty and polluted, our homes and schools and businesses are dirty and polluted,” said Merkley. “A clean and healthy Columbia River Basin is good for our health, our environment, and our economy.”

Even at a time of economic downturn, a pandemic and more devastation from wildfires, prioritizing river health, clean water and equitable and inclusive community involvement is still critically important.

The Oregon-based grant recipients and projects are:

• PNW Pollution Prevention Resource Center, is receiving $88,304 to reduce pollutants from automotive and landscaping industries in the Portland metro area.

• Salmon Safe in Oregon is receiving $200,000 to address pesticide and erosion reduction, habitat protection and enhancement, and facilitate farmer certification.

• Multnomah County is receiving $174,045 to support pesticide reduction outreach efforts in the lower and middle Columbia River, Deschutes, Willamette, Hood watersheds, and southwest Washington, including development of bi-lingual outreach materials.

• Lower Columbia River Estuary Program is receiving $67,597 to fund the deployment of Grattix boxes that will reduce zinc and copper run-off to the lower Columbia River in St. Helens and Rainier, Oregon and Longview, Washington.

• Cascade Pacific Resource, Conservation & Development is receiving $199,999 to build green stormwater infrastructure to reduce metals, PAHs, and pesticides in run-off in Lane County.

• Columbia Riverkeeper is receiving $91,991 to fund pollution prevention education with a focus on youth outreach in Hood River and Wasco Counties and Klickitat County, Washington.

In addition to these six projects, two Washington-based recipients have projects that will also benefit Oregon’s waters.

For more about the Columbia River Basin Restoration Program and grantees, please visit: EPA’s website.

–Jennifer K. Flynt, public affairs specialist

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Message from Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission Chair

Today let’s remember all those who have suffered losses, and again pay tribute to the firefighters who are working so hard out there. And let’s work together to improve the conditions that have such dangerous potential.

Oregon Environmental Quality Commission Chair, Kathleen George

People across Oregon have been suffering the impacts from unprecedented wildfires throughout our state and region and I want to acknowledge the tremendous losses that have been suffered by our fellow citizens. Up and down the West Coast, the destruction from these fires is heartbreaking. 

As the Chair of the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission, I want to share the commission’s compassion as we mourn with those who have lost family and friends in the fires. This is devastating and our thoughts go out to them. We are thankful that more lives were not lost, and so grateful to the heroic efforts of those fighting on the frontlines of the blazes.

We remember those who have lost homes, special places, and prized family treasures. These losses are traumatic and some can never be replaced. We also recognize that millions of people have struggled with dangerous breathing conditions for weeks. This is difficult and sickening in the short term and damaging to our health in the long term. 

We know that many factors came together to create the dangerous conditions that Oregon has been facing. And scientists have warned for years that climate change was creating hotter dryer conditions that would make events like the ones Oregon has been experiencing more common if we continue on our current path.

Working with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, we are intimately aware of the benefits of using science to protect and restore air quality. DEQ’s air monitors and Air Quality Index are among the most valuable tools to determine when an air advisory is needed for portions of the state.

With the unforgiving wildfires and overwhelming smoke, even these tools were pushed to the limit. The circumstances were far beyond anyone’s control, but there are still steps we can take to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

So, today let’s remember all those who have suffered losses, and again pay tribute to the firefighters who are working so hard out there. And let’s work together to improve the conditions that have such dangerous potential.

— Kathleen George, Environmental Quality Commission Chair

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Wildfire smoke brings record poor air quality to Oregon, new data shows

Oregon is experiencing record poor air quality from wildfire smoke across the state, according to analysis by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA).

Oregon air reached unhealthy or hazardous levels across the state last week on the Air Quality Index (AQI)—which categorizes how clean the air is and lists associated health risks. Dense smoke is expected to remain throughout most of Oregon until at least Thursday.

Snapshot of EPA AirNow’s AQI map on Saturday, Sept. 12 at 11 a.m.

DEQ and LRAPA compared recent and historical Air Quality Index information for Portland, Eugene, Bend, Medford and Klamath Falls. The AQI ranks air quality on a progressive five-step scale: good, moderate, unhealthy, very unhealthy or hazardous.

Preliminary analysis shows:

  • Record highs: All five cities exceeded previous daily records for poor air quality during wildfire season. Southern Oregon has previously seen extended periods of unhealthy and very unhealthy air quality, but Medford and Klamath Falls have also set records this year. All previous records were set in September 2017.
  • Hazardous days: Other than Medford, no city has previously experienced a hazardous air quality day since DEQ began monitoring. Medford had one day of hazardous air quality in both 2017 and 1987. Last week, Eugene had five hazardous days, Bend and Medford had three, Portland had two, and Klamath Falls had one.
  • Very unhealthy days: While Eugene, Bend, Medford and Klamath Falls have experienced very unhealthy days in previous years, Portland has never had a very unhealthy day. Last week, Portland had two very unhealthy days.

Previous and new daily AQI records (through Sunday, Sept. 13)

  • Portland’s previous record AQI was 157 (unhealthy) in 2017. Portland’s new record is 477 (hazardous) set on Sunday, Sept. 13.
  • Eugene’s previous record AQI was 291 (very unhealthy) in 2017. Eugene’s new record is 457 (hazardous) set on Sunday, Sept. 13.
  • Bend’s previous record AQI was 231 (very unhealthy) in 2017. Bend’s new record is over 500 (beyond the AQI scale ) set on Saturday, Sept. 12.
  • Medford’s previous record AQI was 319 (hazardous). Medford’s new record is 325 (hazardous) set on Saturday, Sept. 12.
  • Klamath Fall’s previous record AQI was 254 (very unhealthy). Klamath Fall’s new record is 331 (hazardous) set on Saturday, Sept. 12.

Regular record-keeping of air quality levels began in Portland, Eugene and Medford in 1985, Bend in 1989, and Klamath Falls in 1999.

CityPrevious
Record
AQI
9/7
AQI
9/8
AQI
9/9
AQI
9/10
AQI
9/11
AQI
9/12
AQI
9/13
Portland157841866215287388477
Bend231107375497485500+ 404
Medford319669445207321325319
Klamath Falls25476543573189331223
Eugene291106342239387447438457
Previous record daily AQI and daily AQI levels for Monday, Sept. 7 – Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. All previous daily AQI records were set in 2017.

DEQ’s color-coded Air Quality Index provides current air quality conditions and ranks air quality on a scale of 0-500. Green (0-50) is good. Yellow (51-100) is moderate.  Orange (101 to 150) is unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children, seniors, pregnant women and those with respiratory conditions. Red (151 to 200) is unhealthy for everyone. Purple (201 to 300) is very unhealthy for everyone. Maroon (301 to 500) is hazardous for everyone. Over 500 is off the AQI scale. People should follow recommendations for hazardous conditions.

Get the latest air quality info on the Oregon Smoke Information Blog or by downloading the free OregonAir smartphone app on Android or iPhone.

Media Contacts:

  • Laura Gleim, Oregon DEQ, 541-633-2030, gleim.laura@deq.state.or.us
  • Travis Knudsen, Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, 303-523-2661, travis@lrapa.org

Note about data: Data for 2020 is preliminary and has not yet been validated according to DEQ’s quality assurance procedures. Historical data focuses on wildfire smoke, and excludes data from wintertime air quality levels, field burning days, and the Fourth of July (because of fireworks).

Featured

Oregon wildfires, smoke prompt a coordinated response

Oregon Forest Fire by Canva

When wildfires blew up along the Santiam and McKenzie river canyons, Peter Brewer was up at dawn, studying satellite imagery that showed a thick wall of smoke across much of western and southern Oregon. Brewer, a wildfire smoke response coordinator, knew bad news when he saw it.

“You know what’s coming,” says Brewer, who works in the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Bend office. “You know we’re going to get hit in a big way.”

Oregon has officially entered fire season, and it already is going down as one of the worst and most tragic on record. At last count, 50 fires, more than 500 square miles burned, sending huge plumes of smoke wherever the wind blows. This week, Eugene and Salem caught the brunt of it, with mid-day skies darkened and emitting an eerie red glow.

What makes for dramatic news photography, however, is bad for public health. DEQ’s system of air monitors showed some of the worst air since the agency began measuring, hovering in the purple “hazardous” category in at least nine communities. It is rare for air quality to dip down into the red “unhealthy” level. Smoke produces fine particulates that pose a health risk when breathed into the lungs.

DEQ’s role when wildfires burn is to let the public know about the quality of the air and what steps to take if it starts to head into the unhealthy range. The agency depends on its ever-growing network of air monitors along with a host of other government, tribal and health organizations to accurately predict where the smoke is going to be and how it affects air quality.

Before the devastating 2012 Pole Creek Fire near Sisters, there was little coordination among state agencies when a fire broke out. The dense smoke from that fire led to calls for more coordination, which led to a multi-agency effort to track smoke and provide advisories.

Since then, the effort has grown to include the Oregon Department of Forestry, the National Weather Service, the Oregon Health Authority, local county health offices, tribes and more. During the most recent collaborative call, more than 90 people were on the line.

During the call, which is led by DEQ, forestry officials described the fires and fire patterns, weather forecasters showed wind directions and strength and the determination was made to declare an air quality advisory for all regions of Oregon and Southwest Washington due to fires in Oregon, Washington and California. “And it’s going to be put to use as never before,” he says. “This is going to be historically one of the worst fire seasons Oregon has had.”

–Harry Esteve, communications manager

Read Knowing the colors of the air quality index to learn about DEQ’s AQI.

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Knowing the colors of the air quality index

AQI map, Oregon Smoke Information Blog, Sept. 11

A glance at a map of air quality monitors around the state provides a quick check of the air.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality uses a color-coded system to signal air quality at each of the monitors. Green means good. Maroon means hazardous.

And there are three colors, and levels of air quality in between.

The Air Quality Index online map and the OregonAIR app utilize the same color-coded system, as does the interactive map on the Oregon Smoke Information Blog.

People most at risk from particle pollution exposure, such as wildfire smoke, include those with heart or lung diseases. Older adults and children, as well as pregnant women, may also be more susceptible to smoke exposure.

Find the OregonAIR app at apple.co/3h9PJwA for iPhone and bit.ly/2FiHSzW for Android.

– Dylan Darling, public affairs specialist

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DEQ to attend Oregon’s Energy Future Virtual Conference, September 1, 2020

Rachel Sakata, DEQ senior air quality planner

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is proud to announce that Rachel Sakata, DEQ senior air quality planner, will be leading a roundtable discussion on Oregon’s involvement with Medium- and Heavy Duty Zero Emission Vehicles MOU at the Oregon Energy Future Conference presented by the Northwest Environmental Business Council.

Continue reading “DEQ to attend Oregon’s Energy Future Virtual Conference, September 1, 2020”
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Feeding the hungry, not landfills: DEQ grants $140,000 to Oregon Food Bank to fight hunger and food waste

Jason D. Smith with Oregon Food Bank, unloads produce in July at the Baltazar Ortiz Family Center in Porltand [Photo courtesy of Oregon Food Bank]

Serving more than 860,000 people each year prior to COVID-19, Oregon Food Bank’s network of 1,400 pantries and meal sites are driven by donations of fresh produce, protein, dairy and other pantry staples. In preparing this food for distribution, volunteers devote thousands of hours to sorting and packaging bulk donations from across the Northwest.

Continue reading “Feeding the hungry, not landfills: DEQ grants $140,000 to Oregon Food Bank to fight hunger and food waste”
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Summer at the Oregon DEQ: Learning, Planning, and Spreading the Word

A sailboat with fouled hull

My name is Chris Schmokel, and I am an environmental chemistry major at Oregon State University and also an Oregon Sea Grant Summer Scholar Fellow. My fellowship placement is with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and this summer I’m working on two projects: starting a pilot program to test for copper concentrations in Oregon waters, and creating a short video to share all the good work being done by the Oregon Sea Grant’s Oregon Applied Sustainability Experience internship program.

Continue reading “Summer at the Oregon DEQ: Learning, Planning, and Spreading the Word”
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EPA plan for Washington and Oregon rivers leaves salmon in hot water

(Reposted with permission from Washington Department of Ecology)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released their plan to reduce temperatures in the Columbia and Snake rivers. The plan, called a “Total Maximum Daily Load” or TMDL, is like a diet for temperature: it sets reduction targets for each source of temperature pollution — such as dams, businesses, and even climate change. If each of these sources meet its goal, temperatures in the rivers will remain at levels healthy for endangered salmon.

Continue reading “EPA plan for Washington and Oregon rivers leaves salmon in hot water”
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Franziska Landes recognized for using science to solve societal problems

Franziska Landes, Northwest Region Cleanup staff, received the 2019 Science for Solutions Award from the American Geophysical Union “for significant contributions in the application and use of the Earth and space sciences to solve societal problems.”

Continue reading “Franziska Landes recognized for using science to solve societal problems”
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DEQ awards $125,000 to boost 13 repair and reuse businesses and non-profits in Oregon

St. Vincent De Paul of Lane County

“The grant applicants represented a wide range of communities and many grantees provide direct service to historically marginalized populations. With these grants, DEQ can engage more Oregon communities in sustainable materials management practices – which focus on using and reusing resources more productively and sustainably.”

–Marie Diodati, Material Management program grant manager

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality awarded approximately $125,000 total to 13 businesses and non-profits in Oregon’s repair and reuse industry on Friday, July 17. DEQ’s 2020 Workforce Development Repair and Reuse grants provide up to $10,000 to each awardee to support projects that help protect Oregon’s environment, public health and economy.

Continue reading “DEQ awards $125,000 to boost 13 repair and reuse businesses and non-profits in Oregon”
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DEQ begins work on landmark cleanup project

Contaminated sediment is being removed and put onto a barge to be hauled away. The orange fabric marks the moon pool where sediment curtains drop down to the river bottom to prevent contamination from going outside the removal area.

This week, DEQ began overseeing the cleanup of the last legacy contamination site in Portland’s downtown reach. From the mid-1800s to early 1900s, Portland Gas Manufacturing created the compressed gas that lit the street lamps. Today, the site is occupied by Naito Parkway and Tom McCall Waterfront Park between the Burnside and Steel Bridges.

Continue reading “DEQ begins work on landmark cleanup project”
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DEQ updates interactive map of Oregon’s water quality

DEQ’s ambient monitoring locations used to calculate the OWQI.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has released the 2019 Oregon Water Quality Index. The index, or OWQI, details water quality assessments at 160 ambient monitoring stations across the state.

Continue reading “DEQ updates interactive map of Oregon’s water quality”
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Oregon joins 14 states and DC in effort to speed up truck and bus electrification

Oregon has set goals for more sales of zero emission vehicles in the state over coming decades, expanding from electric cars to electric trucks, buses and vans. [Oregon Department of Transportation]

Oregon and 14 other states, as well as the District of Columbia, are committed to working together to advance the market for electric trucks, buses and vans.

“Oregonians have been leading the way in adopting electric cars to lower emissions,” said Gov. Kate Brown. “Electrifying trucks, buses and delivery vehicles is the next logical step in cutting emissions, improving air quality and fighting climate change.”

Continue reading “Oregon joins 14 states and DC in effort to speed up truck and bus electrification”
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Repair, Reuse, Relax – DEQ staff protects the environment one foot of lumber at a time

“It started innocently enough with pressure washing the deck. This seemingly benign activity showed that the deck needed a lot of repair.”

-Rebecca Wells-Albers

My husband and I have been working on a deck rebuild at our house in the evenings and weekends since April (note that we are reluctant but willing Do-It-Yourselfers). We usually get out of town for at least day trips on the weekends, but due to the pandemic, we’ve stayed close to home since March.

Continue reading “Repair, Reuse, Relax – DEQ staff protects the environment one foot of lumber at a time”
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DEQ vehicle inspection staff handle record visits

Vehicles lined up at the vehicle inspection station in Portland.

All DEQ’s vehicle inspection stations have reopened for testing, and the response has been record-breaking. Nearly 4,000 cars a day went through stations in Jackson, Clackamas, Washington and Columbia counties during the first two weeks. That number rose even higher this week with the reopening of Multnomah County stations in Gresham and Northeast Portland.

Continue reading “DEQ vehicle inspection staff handle record visits”
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DEQ awarded $215K grant to monitor health of Oregon’s beaches

“I’m pleased that this grant funding is making its way to our state so we can monitor the quality of our waters, promote safety, and support this special Oregon tradition.”

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley
Seaside, OR. Photo credit by JKF
Continue reading “DEQ awarded $215K grant to monitor health of Oregon’s beaches”
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Refuse and Recycling during COVID-19

“From Manzanita to Enterprise, and from Burns over to Brookings, the consistent service provided to residents and business during these uncertain times has helped to support the health and well-being of communities across the state.”

Lydia Emer, DEQ’s Land Quality Administrator
Continue reading “Refuse and Recycling during COVID-19”
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The Sacrifice Feels Shared

“We’re receiving about double our normal supplies these days – we saw about two million pounds of food donations come through last week,” says Steven Castro, who receives and logs donations at the Oregon Food Bank. “But these supplies go right out the door just as soon as they come in.” 

(Photo courtesy Oregon Food Bank / Facebook)
Continue reading “The Sacrifice Feels Shared”
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Environmental Injustice

The clear waters of Waldo Lake. Photo Credit By Coulee

As of Monday, June 22, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has put a new federal rule into effect regarding Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, that curb the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s ability to protect clean water for people in Oregon. DEQ described its opposition to the proposed rollback back in an October article.

Continue reading “Environmental Injustice”
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Patience requested as vehicle inspection stations reopen in Medford and some Portland-Metro area locations

Great news! The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is reopening many of its vehicle inspection stations this week. Today, the Medford-Ashland station will begin offering inspection services; while the Clackamas, Sherwood and Hillsboro/Sunset stations will reopen tomorrow, June 16; and the Scappoose station will reopen on Friday, June 19. The agency asks the public for patience as the staff works within new COVID-19-related procedures and through a backlog of vehicles. DEQ will continue to offer several other options for obtaining an inspection compliance certificate for those who do not want to wait in line.

Continue reading “Patience requested as vehicle inspection stations reopen in Medford and some Portland-Metro area locations”
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New hope for old bus station site in Salem

“Helping communities and good causes get needed facilities such as housing for domestic violence survivors is putting EPA’s brownfield funding to good use and makes my day.”

Mary Camarata, DEQ’s Western Region brownfields coordinator.

When the Center for Hope & Safety in Salem purchased the building next door in 2015 it was taking a gamble.

Continue reading “New hope for old bus station site in Salem”
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We all play for Oregon

I served 40 days as part of the state’s response to COVID-19. Thirty-one of those days were as Deputy Media Public Information Officer in the Joint Information Center in Salem. My job was to lead a team of staff to respond to the 20 to 40 emails and calls we’d receive from the media every day. During this time, I learned innumerable things about communication, patience, dedication, compassion, service and friendship. But, for the sake of this blog, I’d like to share three.

Continue reading “We all play for Oregon”
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As DEQ prepares for wildfire season, the public may also take part

Garner Complex Base Camp, July 2018, Jackson County. Photo credit: Steve Timbrook, ODF

With a hot, dry summer forecast ahead of us, wildfire season has already begun in many counties across Oregon. As such, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has been working with a group of state agencies and regional organizations, including the National Weather Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry,  the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency and the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division, among many others, to prepare for busy months ahead. This includes reviewing the management and protocols for monitoring air quality and notifying the public of severe smoke events.

Continue reading “As DEQ prepares for wildfire season, the public may also take part”
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We Have to Keep Going

“I’ve never seen this in my lifetime. It has been shocking to see how this virus can affect our whole world.”

– Lucy De Leon, owner of Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon
Lucy and Fidela prepping food at Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon

Tortilleria y Tienda de Leon is a restaurant and market that has served up authentic Mexican food for decades and partners with school districts and organizations dedicated to feeding children, families and seniors. 

Continue reading “We Have to Keep Going”
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Beautiful Support from the Community

“We feel lucky to have business so that we can employ some people and provide food to the community.”

– Michael Marzano, who co-owns Hot Mama’s Wings in Eugene with his wife Angie.
Michael Marzano / Hot Mama’s Wings

Like so many restaurants across the state, Hot Mama’s has shifted its entire business to offer only take-out meals. Michael and Angie say they feel fortunate that they’ve been able to continuously adapt and pivot. “It’s tough, a continuing work in progress, but we’re figuring it out,” Angie adds. They cut the menu in half based on what they could do with proper social distancing in the kitchen and what would work best for takeout. They initially struggled to get enough to-go containers and all-natural chicken wings. As they worked through to find solutions, “it was nice to find out the new menu matched well to what customers really wanted,” Michael reflects. He has also been delightfully surprised to find that Hot Mama’s new menu is generating virtually no food waste.

Continue reading “Beautiful Support from the Community”
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Everyone is Pitching In

“The great thing to see has been the teamwork. Everyone is supporting each other to find new ways to make this challenging situation work for our customers, our staff, and the community.”

– Rianna Koppel, Sustainability Coordinator at Ashland Food Co-op

As it continues to serve the needs of its members during the COVID-19 crisis, the Co-op has taken many steps to safeguard employees and customers. “It’s completely changed the way we work.”  The Co-op has added masks and hand sanitizer, one-way aisles, floor stickers for social distancing at checkout, plexiglass shields at checkout, and senior shopping hours in the morning.  

Continue reading “Everyone is Pitching In”
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Celebrate Air Quality Awareness Week

Blue sky over a remote Oregon ranch

It’s Air Quality Awareness Week and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is celebrating. This year’s theme is Better Air, Better Health! The goal is to promote an increased understanding of Oregon’s air and DEQ’s projects and programs dedicated to improving its quality. We also want to encourage people to check the Air Quality Index daily.

Continue reading “Celebrate Air Quality Awareness Week”
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DEQ Repair and Reuse grants spur growth for small businesses and nonprofits

Willa Bauman, operations manager at the ToolBox Project in Eugene, explains how a Repair and Reuse grant from DEQ helped the tool library grow.

A Repair and Reuse grant from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality can be transformative for a small business or nonprofit.

“The DEQ was great to work with, I can say that,” said Willa Bauman, operations manager at the ToolBox Project in Eugene. The nonprofit runs a tool library, where members borrow tools instead of books. “If you are in a similar boat and you’re a grassroots, all-volunteer nonprofit and you need that step up to start to grow your organization and look to the future definitely apply for a DEQ grant.”

DEQ started taking applications from small businesses and nonprofits focused on repair and reuse earlier this spring. Applications for 2020 are due by June 5.

This year DEQ has $120,000 to award in grants up to $10,000 each. DEQ recently broadened eligible costs covered through the Repair and Reuse grant program to address the challenges faced by small businesses and nonprofits trying to retain employees during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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The ToolBox Project earned a Repair and Reuse grant in 2017. The funding helped the nonprofit be open for another day each week, hire Bauman and add more tools to its collection.

“That made us more accessible to members,” Bauman said. “That meant that we could serve more people.”

Membership in the ToolBox Project went up by 42% during the grant window.More members means more revenue for the ToolBox Project. Members are asked to give an annual donation, with the suggested donation varying by household income. For example, members whose annual household income is more than $100,000 are asked to donate $100 per year and members whose household income is between $30,000 and $50,000 are asked to donate $30 per year.

The ToolBox Project now has a collection of about more than 1,500 tools, Bauman said.

To be eligible for a Repair and Reuse grant from DEQ, an Oregon business or nonprofit must repair, salvage, refurbish or resell common consumer goods such as clothing, electronics and furniture, or have a reuse focus. DEQ defines “reuse” as the return of a commodity into the economic stream for use in the same kind of application as originally intended.

Along with the ToolBox Project past grantees are JD’s Shoe Repair and Salvage Works in Portland, The Renewal Workshop in Cascade Locks and Garten Services in Salem.

“We encourage all repair and reuse businesses and nonprofits in Oregon to check out this grant opportunity and see if it’s a good fit for their business,” said Marie Diodati, DEQ Materials Management program analyst. “With so much uncertainly and turmoil affecting Oregon businesses right now, we hope this grant offers some relief and hope to those trying to stay afloat.”

For more information about the grants and for application material go to ordeq.org/RepairandReuseGrants .

– Dylan Darling, public affairs specialist

 

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DEQ Director’s Message for Earth Day 2020

Fifty years ago, when we began celebrating the planet by dedicating a day to it, I lived in a place called Musketaquid by the first people of the area – the Algonquin.  Musketaquid means “the place where the waters flow through the grasses.” The waters are two rivers – the Assabet and the Sudbury – that join together to form the Concord River in eastern Massachusetts, 20 miles west of Boston.

Back then I would cross the Assabet on my way to and from school – and some days I would make my mother very nervous by disappearing for hours along its banks.

Fifty years ago, in eighth grade, I knew about the mills that dumped dye into the Assabet. But there were many things I didn’t know.

I didn’t know that on the other river – the Sudbury (where I worked weekends at a local boathouse), the river was heavily polluted by mercury. From 1917 to 1978 the Nyanza Color & Chemical Company operated a textile dye factory that dumped wastewater into a tributary of the Sudbury named Chemical Brook. EPA estimates that 45 to 57 metric tons of mercury were released to the Sudbury River over this period, and a no-fishing advisory remains in place today.

Fifty years ago I also didn’t know that the farmworker kids I went to school with sometimes helped out in the fields, and that it was still common in those days to spray with DDT and other pesticides that posed great risks for human health and the environment. And, as I continue to learn, there are many more things I don’t know.

The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970 was the beginning of a broader awakening for me and many others about the effects of our ways of life on the health of our communities and the environment. My eighth-grade class spent the day picking up trash near Walden Pond and getting inspired to take direct action to care for our own community. Thankfully, that learning continues today.

Fifty years ago, after a period of 25 years of reckless headlong growth following World War II, we began to recognize the consequences of our actions. In the United States, our leaders from all political stripes enacted comprehensive protections for the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the lands we inhabit. We treated many of the symptoms of our post-war society. And this work made the planet a better place for many.

We succeeded back then by getting kids and moms and dads and grandparents and neighbors and friends involved in their communities, by everyone working together to make things better in their own back yards.

Today, with a major public health pandemic pushing us apart physically, and pulling large parts of our economy down, it can be hard to see how we come back together as communities in the same way to help our planet over the next 50 years. But we must. Just as we began to realize in the 1960s and 70s what we had done to our air, our land, and our waters, we now know what our society is doing to the long-term health and survival of the planet.

To stop the catastrophic climate emergency that is about to engulf us, we are going to have to change how we produce, consume and dispose of things, from plastic cups and straws, to the energy we have come to enjoy, to where and how we live and work. Making these changes in ways that are fair and equitable to all parts of society will be even more challenging.

The events of the last month show that we are still capable of working together to confront a common threat. Yes, there are places to point fingers and complain. Yes, there will always be the push and pull of politics. But the world is capable of change, even if that change is messy. And as we work our way out of the pandemic, please stop for a day – this day in particular – to think about the next 50 years and what steps you will take in your community so that you can tell your kids and grandkids that you acted to make this planet a healthier, better place.

–Richard Whitman, Director

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50 years later, Earth Day message still resonates

I was in junior high school when the first Earth Day captivated the world’s imagination and energized the environmental movement. In my hometown, Boulder, Colo., the city closed downtown streets to traffic to simulate what would later become one of the first urban center pedestrian malls in the United States. Musicians set up shop, and people literally danced in the streets that day, April 22, 1970.

Continue reading “50 years later, Earth Day message still resonates”
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Staying connected while working apart

While Oregonians are practicing physical distancing and taking other precautions as we weather the COVID-19 pandemic together, staff can still connect whether it’s 6 feet or 6 miles apart. Here are some friendly faces of staff from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality who continue to adjust to working at home.

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State agencies ask Oregonians to voluntarily refrain from outdoor burning while communities respond to COVID-19

Canva - Photography of Wood Burning on Fire Pit

In response to the “Stay Home, Save Lives” Executive Order to reduce the effects of the COVID-19 virus, a coalition of Oregon state agencies are asking Oregonians to voluntarily refrain from conducting outdoor burning.

Continue reading “State agencies ask Oregonians to voluntarily refrain from outdoor burning while communities respond to COVID-19”
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DEQ Launches Office of Greenhouse Gas Programs

The Office of Greenhouse Gas Programs is leading the Department of Environmental Quality’s effort to reduce Oregon’s contribution to global greenhouse gas pollution. The Office will execute the directions to DEQ in Governor Brown’s executive order to fight climate change, and will begin work immediately to develop and implement programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Continue reading “DEQ Launches Office of Greenhouse Gas Programs”
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Plastic Wars – the fight over the future of plastics by FRONTLINE and NPR

As part of a long investigation on plastics and recycling, FRONTLINE and NPR interviewed David Allaway, waste prevention analyst for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for their series called “Plastic Wars.”

“Science tells us that we need to significantly reduce our use of materials,” says Allaway. But he says our emphasis on recycling distracts us from considering a bigger issue – environmental impacts of increasing consumption.

Check out the story here.

DEQ is working is working closely with local governments, recycling processors and collectors to address ongoing challenges related to recent recycling markets disruptions and work toward solutions to create a more resilient recycling system that protects the environment and strengthens the local economy.

Learn more here.

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Recycle Right! campaign now in Spanish

DEQ’s Recycle Right! campaign materials are now available in Spanish on DEQ’s Reciclar Correctamente webpage. This campaign was created in 2019 to help Oregon residents navigate the murky landscape of what to keep out of the recycling bin. DEQ’s Recycle Right website highlights five major recycling contaminants, and offers helpful tips on how to reduce waste and reuse common materials. In addition to the new Reciclar Correctamente webpage, a Spanish messaging toolkit is available on DEQ’s online resource library.

Continue reading “Recycle Right! campaign now in Spanish”