Leah Feldon has a long history with DEQ – nearly two decades – starting in the Office of Compliance and Enforcement and later serving as deputy director.
The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission, which oversees DEQ, selected Feldon as the agency’s new director in February.
Director Feldon had a conversation with outgoing Communications manager Harry Esteve and GreenState Host Dylan Darling. Topics include Feldon’s thoughts on the direction of the agency, and how she wants to prioritize antiracism and environmental justice in its mission to protect and enhance Oregon’s environment and public health.
QUICK FACTS Date of incident: July 19, 2023 Location: 12350 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland Product: Ash and debris Unified Command: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, Prologis (the building lessee)
For more than 20 years a pair of DEQ hydrologists have been sharing their knowledge of surface water and groundwater with outdoor school students in Eastern Oregon.
Laura Gleim, DEQ’s Eastern Region public affairs specialist, visited an outdoor school near Pendleton to learn along with the kids. She brought along a field recorder and a camera to document the trip. In Oregon, outdoor school is an opportunity for fifth or sixth graders to leave their classrooms and to learn in the outdoors, immersed in nature. This sort of education started in the late 1950s.
Outdoor school often takes place at residential camps, like classic summer camps. “It’s several days of the kids being out in nature, learning about soil and water, plants and animals, other environmental sciences and nature skills,” she said.
More than 150 people from federal, state, tribal, and local governments and BNSF Railroad convened at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center in The Dalles on June 13 to practice responding to a large-scale railroad oil spill. In the imaginary scenario, 23 tank cars carrying 540,000 gallons of crude oil derail along the Deschutes River near its convergence with the Columbia River.
The group’s goal: to develop and implement plans to quickly contain and clean up the imaginary spill to protect public health and minimize damage to the environment.
Sprawling pastures and desertscapes pop with various shades of spring green outside Burns in eastern Oregon’s Harney County—the state’s largest county by land mass but one of the smallest by population, at 7,515 people.
DEQ’s Eastern Region management team traveled from The Dalles, Klamath Falls, and Bend to meet with representatives from the cities of Burns and Hines, the Burns Paiute Tribe, and Harney County on May 23.
“I travel a lot over the mountains in my role,” said Harney County Judge Bill Hart, referring to the Cascade Mountains that spilt eastern from western Oregon. “I want people to come over here too—to see Harney County.”
Staff from DEQ, EPA and Wild River Trust at the site of a former mill on which they conducted a brownfields assessment (March 2020)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced seven sites in Oregon that will receive $8.2 million in brownfield funding for environmental assessment and cleanup projects. The grants will help transform the sites into community assets, attract jobs and promote economic revitalization. The following organizations in Oregon were selected to receive EPA Brownfields funding:
This week we turn our spotlight on Blair Adams at DEQ’s Laboratory in Hillsboro. Blair serves on DEQ’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council and the Wellness Committee in addition to her regular duties. She also just won Oregon’s Public Service Award for 2023 in recognition of her efforts her at the agency.
Thunderheads loomed over the Cascades on an otherwise blue-sky day in Gates and Mill City, a reminder of the devastating September 2020 wildfires.
The cities are still rebuilding. New homes are going up among blackened trees and power tools echo in the distance, drowned out by the murmur of the river.
On Friday, May 19, members of the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission toured the canyon. They got an update from the North Santiam Watershed Council on water quality impacts, heard about local fire recovery and rebuilding efforts, and received an overview from Marion County and Mill City officials on plans for wastewater treatment projects.
Image: Air Quality word cloud created by 6th grade students at Sunny Wolf Charter School
DEQ Air Quality Monitoring Engagement Coordinator Hillarie Sales and Air Quality Coordinator Morgan Schafer have been working all year with a class of middle-schoolers at Sunny Wolf Charter School who have a great interest in science and learning more about air quality and hope to develop formal curriculum from this experience for other classrooms and the general public.
May is Wildfire Awareness Month,so we thought it a good idea to discuss air quality monitoring across Oregon, particularly during the summer season.
The Air Quality Index, air quality advisories and the Oregon Smoke Information blog are all great resources for people looking to understand what kind of air they’re breathing, especially if they’re planning to go camping, hiking or participate in any of the other outdoor activities people in Oregon love to do. DEQ works closely with various agencies and organizations across the state to understand and relay air quality information as accurately and timely as possible.
For Episode 22, we were thrilled to talk with DEQ’s Air Quality Monitoring Outreach Specialist Hillarie Sales and KGW 8 News’ Meteorologist and Reporter Chris McGinness about everything that goes into understanding air quality during Wildfire Season. In, addition, we discuss air quality advisories and some tips to plan for smoky air.
The votes are in. Our photo contest to celebrate Earth Month 2023 was a huge success. DEQers submitted a lot of great images as you’ll see in the slideshow above. The theme this year was “Investing in Planet Earth.” The images show the diversity of beauty in Oregon and why investment in our natural environment is so important.
Congratulations to our winners! Their photos and captions can also be viewed below. We also want to thank all of our staff who submitted photos. We hope to get even more next year.
Oregon DEQ has released its 2019 – 2021 Air Toxics Summary, which provides data on air toxics that were monitored in nine locations across the state, including Bend, Eugene, La Grande, Medford and Portland. The goal is to measure air toxics across Oregon where people live, work and play. That way, DEQ and communities can make better informed decisions on how to track and reduce pollution and lessen exposure to harmful effects to protect public health.
This week we turn the DEQ staff spotlight on Megan Hendrickson. From our Eugene office, Megan works with organizations using funds to repair and replace septic systems in Oregon.
What is your favorite part of working at DEQ?
I started during the pandemic. The first three months were a blur of phone calls, Teams messages, and emails of me saying, “You don’t know me, but I have a question.” Folks in the agency consistently responded with pleasant surprise and made onboarding a lot of fun.
To celebrate Earth Month this year we are turning the spotlight on several staff across the state. This week, we talked with Ania Loyd. Ania is an air quality permit writer and inspector, working from the Eastern Region office in The Dalles.
What is your favorite part about working for DEQ?
There are many things I enjoy about working for DEQ. What brings me the most pride in my job is helping industries navigate regulatory requirements to bring better air for our community. I very much enjoy learning about various industry operations first-hand during inspections. Our state has so many interesting types of industry, from French fry producers, through metal casting operations, to biogas generation from landfills!
The theme for Earth Month 2023 is “Investing in Planet Earth” What does this mean to you?
Personally and through my work, I invest my time, expertise and finances to make our Planet Earth better for us and the future generations. I do my best to lower my household energy usage by driving less, using LED lights, participating in green energy and renewable natural gas programs and cutting down on unnecessary purchases. I also find it important to teach my kids about environmental issues and to foster their love for outdoors and nature.
Just for fun – If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
I have to pick only one place? Currently, Japan is at the top of my travel wishlist. I’m hoping to plan that trip over the next year.
By Michele Thompson, DEQ Web Design/Business Applications and Graphics
Spoiler alert: Food waste is the second leading cause of greenhouse gases, which are a key ingredient in climate change.
But there’s something you can do about it in your home, starting at your next meal – food waste prevention. Katie, a DEQ communication and outreach specialist, joins Dylan on this episode to learn about food waste and life cycle impact. They’re joined by a DEQ expert and an environmental educator in Florida to talk about Food Prevention Week, which goes from April 10-16 in 2023. It’s the second year that the annual campaign has gone national.
We’ll offer some great, practical tips on how not to waste food, including an interesting trick with an egg.
April is Earth Month, and that’s a special time of year at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. We are the state agency dedicated to protecting the quality of Oregon’s abundant rivers and lakes, its spectacular landscapes and the air we all breathe. Whether we are studying water samples under a microscope, collecting data from one of our air monitors or performing emergency cleanup up after an oil spill, DEQ staff are actively investing in the health of our communities, our state and our planet.
Here are just some of the ways we invest in Earth:
DEQ is a science-based state agency, so it generates volumes of public records.
A team of two, with the support of 40 staff members, work together to guide our public record storage and response to requests. Along with discussing how and why DEQ stores records, the experts offer advice on how to best find what you need.
Dylan and Susan talk with Kristen Mercer and Leela Yellesetty to learn about public records. (Note, Lauren is filling in as a manager at DEQ, so she’s taking a break from GreenState.)
QUICK FACTS Date of incident: March 9, 2023 Location: 100 Tile Plant Road, The Dalles Product: Diesel sludge and residue Cause: Under investigation
March 10, 5:30 p.m.
Air quality monitors installed early Friday afternoon are monitoring for particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
People who breathed the smoke from the fire may have experienced coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and/or irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat, according to the Oregon Health Authority. People over 65 and people with pre-existing heart conditions who breathed the smoke may be at increased risk of cardiovascular events for up to 24 hours after the smoke has cleared. Examples of cardiovascular events are coronary syndrome, arrhythmia, heart failure, stroke, and sudden cardiac death. People with asthma or other pre-existing respiratory diseases who breathed the smoke may have experienced worsened symptoms during the smoke event.
Cause of the fire is still under investigation, but emergency responders have learned that vapors inside the tank heated and expanded, causing an explosion inside the tank about 30 minutes after the fire started on Thursday night.
DEQ and EPA are monitoring air quality at the plant.
The tank normally contains a solution of 99 percent diesel and one percent copper naphthenate. Crews had cleaned the tank of that solution earlier Thursday, though some diesel sludge and sawdust remained in the tank.
Cause of the fire is still being investigated. The Sherriff’s Office reported that the two injured firefighters had been taken to the hospital and were in good condition.
Initial report – March 9, 2023
A fire was reported at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 9, 2023, at the AmeriTies West wood treatment plant in The Dalles. About a half hour later a tank exploded. DEQ, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies are coordinating the response.
Two firefighters were injured when the tank exploded, according to the Wasco County Sherriff’s Office. DEQ reports that the tank underwent a BLEVE, or a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion.
DEQ and EPA are installing air quality monitors as a precaution. The facility is a cleanup site with soil and groundwater contamination.
Cory-Ann Wind (second from left)with her Clean Cities Hall of Fame Award presented in February 2023.
We’re thrilled to announce Cory-Ann Wind, manager of Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program, is the recipient of the 2023 Hall of Fame Award from the Columbia-Willamette Clean Cities Coalition, a coalition committed to reducing petroleum consumption in the transportation sector through education and outreach.
The award recognizes Wind’s leadership developing and implementing one of the nation’s only clean fuels programs. California has had a similar program for the last 12 years and Washington started a program this year. Wind has worked at DEQ for 29 years, the last 13 overseeing the Clean Fuels Program.
A new report from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality shows water quality results for 17 rivers and streams in northeastern Oregon’s Grande Ronde, John Day, Powder and Walla Walla River basins.
DEQ analyzed the area’s rivers and streams for nearly 500 chemicals and detected 124. Most chemicals DEQ tested for were either not detected at all or were found at low levels.
None of the chemicals were found at levels that would pose an immediate threat to public health. This means the area’s rivers and streams continue to be safe for recreation and other uses. However, the Oregon Health Authority has a statewide fish advisory that recommends people limit how much bass they eat due to mercury levels.
Bills become laws and state legislators design some Oregon laws to protect the environment. Most people understand that process.
But what about rules that put environmental protection into action? That’s where DEQ comes in through rulemaking. DEQ proposes rules that define how the public and industry interact with the environment in an effort to benefit the economy, human habitation and the preservation of natural areas.
Lauren and Dylan catch up with rulemaking experts at DEQ.
The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission selected Leah Feldon as the new director of the Department of Environmental Quality at a special meeting on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023. The commission’s vote was unanimous. The commission’s decision came after a seven-month nationwide search and included extensive input from the public and DEQ staff.
Photo provided by EWEB. This photo was taken in May 2021 on an EWEB Commissioners and local leaders tour of the damage of the Holiday Farm Fire. The Holiday Farm Fire destroyed more than 500 homes in the McKenzie River Valley, like this one pictured in May 2021. As the community continues to rebuild, EWEB and Oregon DEQ are eager to support people with funds to repair their septic systems damaged in the fire to alleviate their burdens and protect the water quality of the McKenzie River.
The 2020 Holiday Farm Fire east of Eugene burned 173,000 acres of the McKenzie Watershed, including 25 miles of river frontage. The fire destroyed more than 500 homes and many people are still rebuilding.
Oregon has some of the most beautiful and pristine skies in the United States. However, we can also experience poor air quality, and not just during wildfire season. In winter months, there are times when DEQ’s Air Quality Index indicates anything from “Moderate” to “Very Unhealthy” air, often due to stagnant air and inversions. Thankfully, these occurrences don’t tend to last very long.
We asked our friend, Travis Knudsen from Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, to write about this. As LRAPA’s public affairs manager and a former broadcast meteorologist, we feel he is exceedingly qualified to discuss these air quality events. His explanation follows:
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.
Monsanto Company has agreed to pay Oregon $698 million to compensate for decades of contamination with chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The settlement comes after years of work by the state Department of Justice and other state agencies, including DEQ.
But did you know that at the holidays, we waste almost 1 pound per person at a single holiday meal (estimated Thanksgiving food waste at ReFED 2022 – The Food Waste Solutions Summit)? All that wasted food costs you money and has big environmental consequences in greenhouse gas generation, chemical pesticide and fertilizer use, and water and land use.
The holiday season may leave you with more food than you know what to do with, but don’t despair. Lauren and Dylan are here to help you prevent food waste while making all those leftovers disappear.
Need more incentive to make food waste prevention not just a holiday tradition, but also a year-round habit? On average, Oregonians lose about $1,600 per year due to food waste. So, reducing the amount of food that you waste could save you some serious money.
Celebrating 50 years of the Clean Water Act; envisioning the next 50
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, we asked staff in DEQ’s water quality programs to share images they captured while working, playing or relaxing around water. These images highlight some of Oregon’s extraordinary water resources and the importance of protecting them.
“It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart, and head.”
DEQ is proud of the work our water quality teams do to ensure these resources remain clean, safe and accessible for the next 50 years.
We’d love to know which photo is your favorite and why. Send a note to: DEQCommunications@deq.oregon.gov
Mercury is that strange element that looks like a liquid metal bead. Many adults played with it as children. Mercury was used in a bunch of household items – fluorescent bulbs, LCD screens, old appliances, batteries, thermometers and barometers – that are now at risk of spilling.
Lauren and Dylan talk with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Oregon Health Authority staff involved in a recent mercury spill in Bend that resulted in damage to the home, cars, furniture and $100,000 in cleanup costs for the homeowners. They help us understand how to respond if mercury does spill in your home to minimize the impact, and then DEQ staff tell us how to safely dispose of any items we own that we know contain mercury.
Elaine Blatt and the Bad Apple Campaign Project Team received an Oregon Sustainability Award at the 2022 Association of Oregon Recyclers Conference this October. To be nominated for this prestigious recognition, individuals or teams must demonstrate a significant or outstanding accomplishment in recycling, waste prevention, reuse, or other sustainable materials management initiatives. Elaine and her team were celebrated for their actions that went above and beyond the normal scope of duties to bring attention to and spur action around the topic of food waste prevention. The environmental impacts of food waste are immense, yet the topic has remained under the radar compared with other issues related to sustainability, from microplastics to common household recycling. Elaine and her team, working with a marketing consulting firm, dreamed up and created a campaign that is at once engaging and informative without the “scolding” that sometimes can be associated with efforts to change environmentally damaging habits.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $350,000 to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to support pollution prevention. EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Deputy Assistant Administrator for Pollution Prevention Jennie Romer announced what’s known as “P2” funding this week at an event in Portland, Oregon following a tour of Green Drop Garage, an EcoBiz certified automotive repair shop.
A contingent from Washington Department of Ecology joined DEQ’s Clean Fuels Program staff for two days of meetings aimed at learning how the program works and how industry uses cleaner transportation fuels. The visit included time with Oregon’s two largest electric utilities Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp, and a tour of Daimler Truck North America’s “Electric Island” in north Portland.
One thing that hasn’t changed at DEQ is the belief that our strength is our people. That strength is reflected in these three inspiring graduates of the 2022 ASCENT Transformational Leadership Program. Congratulations Ximena Cruz Cuevas, Northwest Region cleanup program coordinator (left), Brian Stafki, Materials Management natural resource specialist (middle) and Laura Gleim, Eastern Region public affairs specialist (right).
As National Source Water Protection Week comes to a close, the Drinking Water Protection staff at DEQ hopes more folks are aware of what we mean by the phrase source water protection. It is the core of our work, but it might not mean much to those outside our agency. As with many fields, the internal lingo often can be mysterious. In this case it’s not complicated. The place where one’s drinking water originates is its source area.
People often ask DEQ: how do you ensure facilities follow environmental laws? There are a lot of answers, but key parts are complaints, inspections and enforcement. This is the first of a two-part series that dives into the complaints and inspections process.
Lauren talks with the manager of the complaints system, a complaints inspector and two facility inspectors about how they receive complaints, find the source of pollution complaints, keep tabs on facilities that DEQ regulates and what happens when there is a violation.
Your DEQ Online crossed another significant milestone this week when the agency’s Climate Protection Program went fully functional in the system. This development means that businesses regulated under the program will have expanded ability to complete transactions in a secure online system.
Of the many things important to people in Oregon, a major one is water. DEQ plays a major role in protecting water quality of lakes, rivers and streams to ensure they can support aquatic plants and animals.
Lauren and Dylan talk to DEQ’s Water Quality Administrator about the state of Oregon’s water as well as the staff working on improving it.
Amid National Water Quality Month, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has released the 2017 Survey of Oregon Lakes. The report’s field work component was completed as a part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s overarching National Aquatic Resource Surveys Program, which includes the National Lakes Assessment every five years. The 2017 Survey of Oregon Lakes provides a statewide evaluation of the ecological condition of lakes and reservoirs. It also represents Oregon’s first-ever assessment of toxic compounds in those water bodies.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality recently announced recipients of nearly $7.5 million in funding for projects designed to reduce diesel emissions across the state and among vulnerable populations. Under the Diesel Emissions Mitigation Grant Program, eight selected projects will help eliminate air contaminants affecting public health and climate by retrofitting or replacing older medium- and heavy-duty diesel equipment with new, cleaner alternatives.
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality staff and managers participated in two significant and successful public outreach events over the weekend of July 9-10: tabling at an Active Bethel Community event in Eugene and staffing a booth at The Big Float in Portland.
After DEQ issued the Owens-Brockway glass recycling plant a $1 million fine in June 2021 for air quality violations, the company signed an agreement in October 2021 resolving the enforcement action and giving Owens-Brockway two options: install pollution controls or shut down.
Harris Beach State Park Beach Monitoring Program, Shane Bennett, 2021
Did you ever want to learn more about the part of DEQ collecting the data that produces the Air Quality Index or analyzing drinking water samples for Cyanobacteria Harmful Algal Blooms? Well, head on over to our new web page and meet the Laboratory and Environmental Assessment Division, a.k.a. the Lab!
Our photography contest features more than 50 images created by DEQ staff who work daily to protect Oregon’s air, land and water. The contest drew entries of stunning images from around the state —whether a shot from their travels or a selfie with a beloved creature or critter. Browse this gallery to see the judges’ top picks. We hope these inspire you.
Warm water continues to be the top source of pollution in Oregon’s rivers and streams, according to the latest and most detailed report produced by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. The 2022 Integrated Report on state water quality, as it is called, is now in the hands of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which must approve its findings before it becomes official.
After eight months of conversations with the community, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has made progress towards addressing soil contamination and protecting community health in Cathedral Park. DEQ, the Oregon Health Authority and City of Portland staff were out in the park for three days in mid-May talking to community members about soil sampling and cleanup work in the park as part of the N. Bradford Street Cleanup Project.
PROJECT ACCOMPLISHMENTS • 5 community meetings • 73 survey responses • 4 signs installed • 24 hours of community outreach • 12 sampling areas
We Oregonians are proud of the beautiful and diverse landscape of our state from the Pacific coast to mountains, rivers, waterfalls, desert, forests and farmland. Oregon also enjoys a “green halo” for our forward-looking outlook about the materials we make and consume to maintain our quality of life. But did you know that you live in the only state that has a 2050 Vision, which was adopted by the Environmental Quality Commission, for how we make and use those materials and how we account for the impacts they generate? Ten years on and Oregon is still the only state with a mechanism for envisioning pathways towards 2050 that protect the beauty and grandeur of Oregon for generations to come.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has released the 2021 Oregon Water Quality Index. It assesses water quality at 160 ambient monitoring stations across the state. The goal is to determine the status and identify trends in waters of the state for ambient water quality conditions. The OWQI is the only water quality key performance measure reported to the Oregon Legislature. However, unlike the Integrated Report or the Water Quality Status and Trends Report, the OWQI is not compared to water quality standards; does not evaluate if beneficial uses are supported; does not have regulatory standing; nor does it attempt to identify pollutant sources contributing to water quality impairments.
Earth Day 2022 has come and gone, but I still think about the iconic “Earth Rise” image. Because I am a geographer, I recognize the collective and sweeping focus and perspective on air, land and water all Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s employees share in our common mission. For me and my own niche, it is such a privilege to work alongside dedicated DEQ professionals, and through the variety of ways the Regional Solutions program compliments and extends our work.
I hope that this larger view of Oregon has a positive trajectory that further motivates us, just like the perspectives Earth Rise has created.
Investments in the health and resilience of Chicken Creek will benefit wildlife and the local community.
An innovative program is helping restore streambank vegetation across Oregon. The program, one of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s many, is called “water quality trading,” and trading is one of several forward-thinking efforts DEQ uses to boost investment in green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is the practice of using natural ecosystems to deliver specific services. Planting trees and other vegetation along streams to shade waterways is just one example of green infrastructure. The positive benefits of planting trees along streams (also known as riparian restoration) are well established, and include streambank stabilization, sediment and pollution filtration, wildlife habitat, water retention, and carbon sequestration. Many Oregon streams have few riparian trees to perform these important functions.
DEQ’s own Aaron Borisenko has been nominated for a 2022 Public Service Recognition Week Award for his work as part of the interagency Wildfire Science Team. The team is up for the Interagency Excellence Team Award category, which honors cross-agency collaboration, stakeholder engagement and innovative approaches to intractable problems.
Starting in July, a 4% technology fee will be charged on all financial transactions in Your DEQ Online, except agency-issued penalties. The fee, which was authorized by the 2021 Oregon Legislature, is necessary to pay for annual operation and maintenance costs of Your DEQ Online.
It’s Air Quality Awareness Week and the DEQ Laboratory and Environmental Assessment Division (You may know us as “The Lab”) thought it a great time to address one of the most common questions we receive: What is the difference between air quality data collected by DEQ and that collected by people with low-cost sensors? As scientists, we might frame the question as so: How do I collect data of known quality?
My parents were depression-era Oklahoma farm kids who came of age at a time and place that required men and women to have practical knowledge about a bit of everything. They were carpenters, hunters, farmers, seamstresses, veterinarians and mechanics. They grew or raised their own food and preserved it for lean times.
Recent headlines warn that the window is quickly closing to protect our future and preserve a livable planet. In Oregon, we have seen the effects of the climate crisis first-hand: hundreds of deaths from extreme heat waves; thousands of homes destroyed by wildfire; lakes and rivers drying up before our eyes; farmers without water to grow food; and the toxic algal blooms that shut down the city of Salem’s drinking water system for weeks in 2018.
Governor Kate Brown has proclaimed April 4 – 8, 2022 to be Food Waste Prevention Week, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is encouraging everyone living across the state to take simple steps to reduce waste and save money. Reducing food waste matters for a variety of reasons, including:
Up to 35% of all food in the U.S. is wasted and costs every Oregon household $1,800 per year on average (The EPA recently updated this figure from $1,600)
Food accounts for the second highest contribution to greenhouse gases by Oregon residents
Preventing one ton of food from being wasted reduces significantly more greenhouse gases than simply keeping food waste out of landfills
Seventy percent of food Oregon households throw out could have been eaten had it not been allowed to spoil. This food differs from the peels, bones and shells that clearly couldn’t be eaten
“This week is about highlighting the importance of reducing food waste to ensure fuller wallets and reduced harm to our environment,” says Elaine Blatt, senior policy analyst at DEQ. “By focusing on preventing food waste, we hope Oregon households will learn approaches they can use now and in the future to save money and protect our planet.”
There are many steps you can take to reduce food waste. Consider trying some of the following:
Store food that will go bad soonest in a visible part of the fridge or pantry
Know how and where to store food properly so it lasts longer (visit dontletgoodfoodgobad.org for specific tips on different types of food)
Keep track of what you have at home or what you need to use up before it goes bad
Create meals from what you have on hand
Finish all your leftovers
Freeze for later use
Monitor the temperature in the fridge to make sure it’s at the best setting to preserve your food
Check your refrigerator and pantry before you shop
During Food Waste Prevention Week, our partners at Save the Food Florida are running a fun twist on a traditional game. It’s called Bad Apple Bingo! Just save the photo below (or take a screenshot) and mark your bingo card with the action you take each day. Then repost using #savethefoodfl and tagging @SavetheFoodFL to be eligible to win! Aren’t into social media? No problem. Print the card and use it as a guide for how to fight food waste at home.
There’s more good news too! In the run-up to Food Waste Prevention Week, students around the country recently participated in the FOOD FUTURE HACK-A-THON. This contest challenged students to compete with their peers to solve a food waste challenge in a virtual invention marathon culminating with the presentation of a short, 2-3 minute video illustrating each team’s solutions.
The Eco Reps Team from Oregon State University won an award in the “Best Idea” category. Their project, “Crop Circle”, outlines an innovative program connecting farms and schools to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to schools.
Finally, there are other ways to participate in Food Waste Prevention Week. These include more games and challenges, K-12 student engagement contests, invention marathons and presentations with special guests, including celebrated local chefs and elected officials. Visit www.foodwastepreventionweek.com for all the details.
By Julie Miller, communications specialist, Materials Management, Oregon DEQ
UNESCO commemorates International Day of Women and Girls in Science every Feb. 11 as part of an effort to educate the world about the barriers women and girls face when considering STEM careers. In honor of that day and as part of March’s celebration of women’s history, we asked DEQ employees their perspectives on why there aren’t more women in the science fields and what we can do about it. We received a wide variety of replies, which you can read below.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works recently held a hearing on biofuels policy during which Cory-Ann Wind had the opportunity to talk about Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program – one of the most successful statewide policies for addressing the state’s contribution to global climate change. Managed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the program began in 2016 with the goal of cutting carbon emissions from transportation sector, the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is removing petroleum-contaminated soil at Johnson Oil, a former gas station and car dealership in Clatskanie that began operating in 1957. The soil-removal is the latest effort to clean up the site, which has a history of contamination dating back to the 1980s. Columbia County acquired the property through foreclosure in 2007.
DEQ collaborated with the Clatskanie Cultural Center on a Story Map to provide a summary of site activities, current risk and future plans for Johnson Oil.
This is a voluntary, non-regulatory program that supports environmental workforce development, waste reduction, environmental protection and economic savings. This year, the program is especially interested in working with coastal businesses, B-Corps, the metal finishing industry, small businesses and the food and beverage sector.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has made big changes to the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program’s Charge Ahead Rebate. As of Jan. 1, 2022, low- and moderate-income households are eligible for $5,000 back with the purchase or lease of a new or used battery electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Previously, the Charge Ahead Rebate was $2,500. In addition, if the purchase or lease is a new battery electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, then the rebate can be combined with the Standard Rebate for up to $7,500 back.
The Oregon Legislature agreed to the increase in May 2021. It also expanded the Charge Ahead Rebate to make low-income service providers eligible for money back.
New DEQ program will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon by 90% by 2050
Statewide, OR — Today the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission voted 3-1 to establish the Climate Protection Program which sets enforceable and declining limits on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels used throughout Oregon. The limits apply to diesel, gasoline, natural gas and propane, used in transportation, residential, commercial and industrial settings.
Along with other actions by the Oregon Legislature, this makes Oregon one of the few states in the nation with a comprehensive and clear pathway to reducing the emissions that cause global warming. As approved, the new rules put Oregon on track to reduce emissions from fossil fuels by 50% by 2035 and 90% by 2050, reductions that scientists agree are required to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
As part of ongoing efforts to improve air quality, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality today announced recipients of $8.1 million in funding for projects designed to reduce diesel emissions across the state and among vulnerable populations. Under the Diesel Emissions Mitigation Grant Program, 12 projects will help eliminate air contaminants affecting public health and climate by retrofitting or replacing older medium- and heavy-duty diesel equipment with new, cleaner alternatives.
“Diesel pollution is a hazard to public health, especially for our most vulnerable community members, and today’s action will permanently remove tons of toxic emissions from our air,” said Oregon State Representative Rob Nosse. “DEQ’s grant program provides valuable support for diesel equipment owners to replace their older, more polluting equipment. I am excited to see this support go out to these businesses.”
The selected projects will remove more than 200 tons of harmful air pollution, including nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter, from Oregon’s air. They range from installing diesel particulate filters in heavy-duty truck fleets based in the Portland Metro area to replacing diesel-powered street sweepers with new, zero emissions electric equipment in the Willamette Valley, to converting waste and freight hauling trucks to zero emissions electric transportation across the state.
“These grants represent our commitment to reducing diesel emissions and supporting the transition of Oregon’s medium- and heavy-duty truck fleets to zero emissions in the future.
DEQ Air Quality Division Administrator Ali Mirzakhalili.
Recipients and awards include:
Recipient: Aramark Uniform & Career Apparel Group, Inc. Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Four (4) Electric Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $600,000
Recipient: Bedrock Concrete Cutting Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Three (3) Electric Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $201,475.51
Recipient: Cadman/Lehigh Hanson Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Sixty-Three (63) Exhaust Control Retrofits Grant Amount: $1,216,972.89
Recipient: City of Newberg Primary Location: Newberg Project Upgrade Type: One (1) Electric Equipment Replacement Grant Amount: $293,066
Recipient: City of Portland Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Eight (8) Electric Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $2,660,234
Recipient: City of Roses Disposal & Recycling Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: One (1) Electric Equipment Replacement Grant Amount: $238,046.50
Recipient: DeVry Construction LLC Primary Location: Medford Project Upgrade Type: One (1) Diesel Equipment Replacement Grant Amount: $25,994.80
Recipient: DMH Inc. Primary Location: Forest Grove Project Upgrade Type: One (1) Exhaust Control Retrofit Grant Amount: $14,006.63
Recipient: Estes Express Lines Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Thirteen (13) Diesel Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $316,783.75
Recipient: Morgan Industrial, Inc. Primary Location: Hillsboro Project Upgrade Type: Sixteen (16) Diesel Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $704,606.09
Recipient: TITAN Freight Systems Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Six (6) Electric Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $1,288,579.50
2021 Total Grant Amount: $8,111,015.67
“These grants represent our commitment to reducing diesel emissions and supporting the transition of Oregon’s medium- and heavy-duty truck fleets to zero emissions in the future,” said DEQ Air Quality Division Administrator Ali Mirzakhalili. “Combined with the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission’s recent decision to adopt the Advanced Clean Truck rules, we are leading the way to cleaner air in Oregon.”
DEQ’s Air Quality Program staff reviewed 71 grant applications, totaling more than $53 million in funding, and applied specific criteria from the Oregon Legislature and related administrative rules to evaluate proposed projects according to a point system. The 55 total points broke down as follows:
• Project summary and approach (5 points) • Project eligibility and type (15 points) • Project cost and air quality benefits (5 points) • Project location (10 points) • Applicant and fleet profile (20 points)
Project location criterion included a GIS evaluation against a vulnerable population map . The review considered how a proposed project would improve air quality in areas with the highest diesel emissions, most vulnerable populations and highest population densities.
Starting this month, DEQ will work with grant recipients to finalize project details and agreements. Funding will not be released until the process is complete. Project work should begin by mid-February 2022.
DEQ has approximately $40 million from the Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund established after Volkswagen was found to have cheated on emissions standards. The agency will award approximately $8 million in grants per year for five consecutive calendar years, beginning in 2021 and ending in 2025.
As we commemorate Veterans Day, we appreciate how the many veterans and active-duty military working at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are continuing the call to service in their current jobs. DEQ is proud to have 48 military service members on staff. We honor them for their sacrifices and thank them for always saying “yes” when called upon to support our country and Oregonians.
Earlier this week, Oregon Governor Kate Brown shared the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s work on a global stage when she served as a panelist on a session titled “Partnerships to Reduce Wasted Food on the American West Coast” at COP26, the 2021 United Nations climate change conference.
Speaking from Glasgow, Scotland, Governor Brown talked about Oregon’s climate emergency and how the state is taking meaningful steps to combat climate change through food waste reduction. The session, hosted by the Pacific Coast Collaborative, included members of the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment. The PCFWC is an unprecedented public-private partnership featuring some of the nation’s largest food businesses alongside local, state, and provincial governments – all working collaboratively toward a shared ambition of effective, industry-wide actions that prevent and reduce wasted food along the West Coast.
“Having the PCC [Pacific Coast Collaborative] allows us to share, replicate and learn from one another in ways that are extraordinarily valuable,” Governor Brown said.
Food that is grown and never eaten consumes an enormous amount of natural resources, and is responsible for 4 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. According to Oregon’s own Consumption-Based Emissions Inventory, food is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions caused by people in Oregon after transportation. To address this, Governor Brown included a directive in her 2020 Executive Order 20-04 on Climate that instructs DEQ to “take actions necessary to prevent and recover food waste, with the goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030.”
“We have to move further and faster,” Governor Brown said. “We just have to, no other choice.”
Among the efforts Governor Brown highlighted was Oregon’s new Bad Apple campaign, designed to help Oregon households save money and reduce food waste at home. The governor said she appreciated the campaign’s use of humor and direct appeal to consumers to save money.
You might not know this, but keeping poop out of the water is a lot of work! The Department of Environmental Quality is responsible for keeping Oregon’s waters safe and healthy and restoring streams and lakes from sources of nonpoint source pollution, such as bacteria from human and animal waste. This is a long-term investment that takes a combination of resources, partnerships and time.
An affordable loan program is again available for homeowners and small businesses in Oregon to repair or replace failing septic systems. Fixing or replacing failing septic systems benefits Oregonians by protecting public health and addressing threats to water quality.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and regional nonprofit lender Craft3 are teaming up to make Craft3’s Clean Water Loans available throughout the state. The Oregon Legislature approved $2 million for the program in the last session and Craft3 began accepting loan applications on Nov. 1, 2021.
Nov. 11 is Veteran’s Day, and DEQ thanks and honors our many staff who served and are still serving Oregon and the U.S. Today we are spotlighting Paul Seidel, Northwest Region Cleanup Manager, who recently retired from the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve after 22 years of service.
As an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, Paul Seidel has played active roles responding to major events, from the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Seidel, DEQ’s Northwest Region Cleanup Manager, says his time in the service helps keep his day job in perspective.
“I think I’m the only person at DEQ who has ever called for air support on an oil slick,” he said with a chuckle during a recent interview. “We called for two C-130s loaded with oil dispersants, and they took care of it.”
Paul said he decided to join the reserve “kind of late in life” after hearing a recruitment ad on the radio while working in Seattle. (“Those ads sometimes work!”) His father, who passed away this year, was a Korean veteran, something that Paul had always admired. He wasn’t entirely satisfied with the job he had at the time, so he did a little research and headed over to visit with a Coast Guard recruiter.
“Three months later, I’m shipped off to boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey.” He recalls a late night bus ride to the base and the “quintessential experience” of off-loading with a bunch of other sleepy-eyed recruits while “the drill sergeant just lays into you. They start working you over then and there.”
His first activation was immediately after 9/11. There were concerns that the Northwest energy infrastructure (waterfront Oil terminals) might be subject to attack. Paul drove to various sites to check their security systems. “The patrols were shore side, not water side. We were in a minivan rather than small boats.”
Less than 1 percent of Americans have military service experience, Paul noted, adding that he gained a keen perspective on leadership during his time in the reserve. At one point during the Deepwater Horizon incident, he was handed the reins to the cleanup work on Grand Isle as the section planning chief.
President Obama visited the scene, as did U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who promptly requested that the incident command double the booms he had ordered around an island that was home to a heron rookery. Paul took care of her request.
“You never know when you’re going to be in a situation where no one more senior is around and you need to be in charge,” he said. “You never know when you are going to have to provide leadership.”
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has awarded Oregon Green Schools $10,000 to help the nonprofit transition from a fully volunteer organization to establishing a more formal structure, including a small, paid professional staff. This shift will strengthen and expand OGS’s activities with schools across the state.
Photos: Students complete the Oregon Green Schools Green lunchroom audit to better understand food waste.
Filipino Americans make up one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States with nearly 20,000 residing in the State of Oregon. Every October we celebrate Filipino heritage to increase awareness of the significant role Filipinos have played in American history.
We had the opportunity to talk to Lynda Viray, someone who knows first hand about Filipino American heritage, to learn about her role at the Oregon Department of Quality, her background and what makes her tick. Lynda’s story is a reminder of the social, cultural, intellectual and economic contributions of Filipino Americans in the nation and Oregon.
Spoiled food is costing Oregon households real money. In fact, every year the average household loses $1,600 by throwing away spoiled food. And while many people are already taking steps to reduce food waste, research funded by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality found that 85% of Oregon households agreed they could do more to reduce food spoilage.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a recipient of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2021 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Award. EPA’s announcement of the 33 award winners on Sept. 22 coincides with Pollution Prevention Week. The award recognizes outstanding achievement in the design, manufacture, promotion and use of environmentally friendly products in homes, schools and businesses. Awardees were selected for active and exemplary participation in and promotion of the product certification and labeling program.
The harsh part of growing up as a minority is growing up not knowing that your background makes you an “other.” You could spend your whole life not knowing that you’re being treated differently, that you’re even different to begin with. You’re just you. It can take a long time to understand the full ramifications of that.
“I’ll count to three this time and we’ll clap after three, ok? One. Two. Three…”
Dylan Darling and Lauren Wirtis simultaneously clap into their microphones – a trick that makes it easier to align their separate recordings. You know in movies when the person says “take six!” and then snap the clapper board shut? Same thing.
You might think customers grumble when they drive their car into one of DEQ’s vehicle inspection stations – it’s time out of their day, after all, and it costs money. But think again. Over the past three months, surveys show a stunning 98.8 percent customer satisfaction with the Vehicle Inspection Program.
DEQ helped launch the program, where high school students earn college credit studying the John Day River watershed
For eight years, high school students in rural communities have earned college credits and learned about watershed science in the outdoor classroom provided by the Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute. The program includes hands-on learning at Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Oregon’s largest at 8,000 acres. 2021 was another success!
With all the surface water from the John Day River basin flowing through the park, Cottonwood Canyon is an ideal place for STEM-centered outdoor learning, including a fuller appreciation for the river’s connection to upstream communities. Students are able to study the John Day River watershed from its uppermost reaches to the Columbia River confluence – its seasons, histories, economies, communities and biomes.
The program also provides career pathways in fields such as recreation management, hydrology, geology, botany, wildlife sciences, photojournalism, technical/descriptive writing, history, renewable energy technologies and communications and public speaking.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality helped launch the institute in partnership with the Eastern Oregon Regional Solutions Program, Gilliam and Wheeler counties, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Eastern Oregon University, BLM Prineville District, John Day and Snake River Resource Advisory Council, U.S. Forest Service, NRCS, Oregon Water Enhancement Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Water Resource Department.
Meandering through the sagebrush and juniper trails at the Stevens Road Tract in southeast Bend, a hiker might never suspect they are walking over acres of buried trash.
Decades-old tires, building materials containing asbestos and household trash fill in former holes and collapsed lava tubes on about 40 acres of the newly planned 382-acre mixed-use housing and commercial development called Stevens Ranch. And soon, much of that trash will be cleaned up and either recycled or deposited in a modern landfill that’s built to protect people and wildlife from trash and the pollution it can create.
Jackson Dougan arrived at DEQ a little over two years ago, after completing a Master of Science in Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy from the University College Dublin in Ireland, as well as working in the New York State’s Office of the Attorney General and at the Environmental Defense Fund, among other places. He currently works as a natural resource specialist in the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.
As a proud member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, we thought this month would be a good time to check in with Jackson to see what he has been up to and if he has any recommendations for those who would like to learn more about his community.
Nearly three weeks into the official launch of Your DEQ Online, the agency’s new data management system, responses have been overwhelmingly positive.
“It has been very smooth,” said Ramesh Manickam, who serves as risk manager for the massive technology project. “We have not had any problems so far.”
Your DEQ Online allows regulated industries to conduct business with DEQ entirely online, including permits, certifications and licenses. It also offers electronic payments for fees and fines. The new system is being phased in over two years.
For years, the Oregon Smoke Blog has been the go-to resource for anyone wanting to learn the latest and best information on smoke conditions during wildfire season. And now, the blog is even better.
In preparation for the upcoming summer months, DEQ has revamped the blog to give it a cleaner design and make it more user friendly. It also is much more adaptable to mobile phone use, which is increasingly the preferred method for accessing the blog.
No matter how hard we work at “spring cleaning,” there’s often one area that’s overlooked – our old, unused electronics. A recent survey found that most of us in Oregon have broken or obsolete TVs, computers, printers or other electronics hiding in plain sight at home. These electronics languish in closets or under sofas, in attics or storage and generally evade our spring cleaning efforts.
The Oregon Department of Quality’s own Martina Frey has been chosen to serve on a national board that is working to modernize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s database for permit compliance and enforcement data.
Martina was one of a handful of water quality experts selected from across the United States to be part of the ICIS Modernization Board. ICIS stands for Integrated Compliance Information System, and is where states and EPA regional branches report their monitoring and enforcement activities.
Ali Mirzakhalili has worked as Oregon DEQ’s Air Quality Division administrator since 2018, but he has been involved with environmental issues for much longer. For Air Quality Awareness Week, we thought it was a good time to ask him about what drew him to this work and how he feels about Oregon’s environmental future.
DEQ’s Nick Haxton-Evans takes a water sample from a groundwater well in Harney County.
A new report from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Laboratory shows water quality data for groundwater in Harney County.
DEQ sampled water from 91 residential, agricultural and monitoring wells in the county and detected 42 different chemicals, including bacteria, pesticides, metals and nutrients. Some of these chemicals naturally exist within water and others are potential contaminants.
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.
Curbing the 35% of food that goes uneaten each year will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve water and land resources, and support those facing food insecurity— which has become increasingly critical in the wake of COVID-19. DEQ’s Materials Management program prioritizes food waste reduction, and leads a variety of projects to reduce food waste. One of those efforts is DEQ’s ongoing support of regional food waste reductions through the Pacific Coast Collaborative, an international governmental agency focused on several environmental initiatives, including food waste reduction.
The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission made headlines recently with a landmark decision to grant additional environmental protections to Crater and Waldo lakes, known for their clear, pristine water. The commission’s approval of the Outstanding Resource Water designation was the end result of months of work by DEQ’s Water Quality Program, from thorough research to public outreach.
Mention Earth Day, and DEQ’s Sarah Idczak thinks back to her days as an undergrad at Western Washington University.
“The environmental college hosted an Annual Earth Day Festival. There were live bands, great food and lots of dancing. It was a great chance to take a step back from all the environmental problems we were studying and celebrate the victories,” says Idczak. “It allowed us to take a breath and just celebrate this big, beautiful blue marble that we all get to call home.”
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has released the 2020 Oregon Water Quality Index. The index assesses water quality at 160 ambient monitoring stations across the state. The goal is to determine the status and identify trends in waters of the state for ambient water quality conditions. The OWQI is the only water quality key performance measure reported to the Oregon Legislature. However, unlike the Integrated Report and Total Maximum Daily Load reports, the OWQI is not compared to water quality standards; does not evaluate if beneficial uses are supported; does not have regulatory standing; nor does it attempt to identify pollutant sources contributing to water quality impairments.
On March 31, 2021, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued the final cleanup plan for the Willamette Cove Upland. Willamette Cove is a 3,000-foot long property along the east bank of the Willamette River just north of the Steel Bridge. Historically used as a cooperage (barrel-making), lumber mill and dry dock, the site has extensive residual contamination.
DEQ has determined partial removal of contaminated soil, with a containment area for the remainder, will protect human health and the environment. Additionally, DEQ added a contingency remedy that will provide Metro flexibility as they finalize their planning for the site. The contingency remedy allows Metro to choose to move more contaminated material off-site and shrink the consolidation area. Read the final cleanup plan.
What does this really mean for the future of the upland area? Here are three things you need to know:
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, Oregon DEQ wants to honor and celebrate the many women in our agency, who work tirelessly to restore, maintain and enhance our state’s air, land and water. Their hard work, expertise and lived experiences provide unique perspectives and contributions to our mission.
Over the last month, we approached women who were new to DEQ, as well as those who have worked here a while and moved into new positions in the agency, and asked them the following question:
How do you think your experience as a woman has informed your work at DEQ?
I’ve pursued paths that, while they weren’t unheard of for women, women were definitely in the minority. I pursued my undergraduate degree in civil engineering at a time when women made up about 10% of the students in my degree program. That was the highest percentage among all the engineering fields of study at the time.
The Beaverton School District and Portland General Electric have partnered to bring the first two electric school buses to Oregon. Each vehicle will cut about 52,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. That means students, drivers and neighborhoods will breathe cleaner air and overall air quality will improve.
Across the state, students are beginning to head back to in-person schooling, and that means more and more school buses are returning to the roads. As such, Oregon DEQ is working to make that transportation cleaner and safer for those children and the environment.
From the extraordinary pandemic to the intruding smoke from massive wildfires, 2020 presented Oregon DEQ’s vehicle testing inspectors with demands they had never before encountered. Through ingenuity, flexibility and teamwork, they were able to move from standard operating procedures to an entirely new set of safety protocols and disinfection guidelines, all while maintaining the high quality of service and efficiency for which they are known.
Vehicle Inspection Program employees are Oregon DEQ’s frontline workers. They work with the public six days a week to ensure that fewer and fewer emissions and hazardous pollutants enter the environment. We are grateful for their service.
Crater Lake and Waldo Lake have always stood out as waters in Oregon.
Crater Lake, the namesake for the only National Park in the state, has clear blue water. The deep lake fills a volcanic caldera. Waldo Lake, nestled into the Cascades near Oakridge, holds exceptionally clear water. So clear that it is like distilled water.
The value of the pristine waters held by Crater and Waldo lakes is undeniable. But now it is official and the lakes have added state protections after action taken Thursday by the Environmental Quality Commission. The rulemaking board, which oversees the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, voted 4-0 to designate Crater Lake and Waldo Lake as Outstanding Resource Waters.
“Crater Lake and Waldo Lake are unique and invaluable treasures for Oregonians and the world,” said DEQ Director Richard Whitman. “Their crystal clear clean waters represent the best of Oregon’s natural beauty. By designating the lakes as Outstanding Resource Waters, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission is assuring that these special places will remain unspoiled for present and future generations.”
It is only the second time the commission granted the special status to waters in Oregon. Crater Lake and Waldo Lake join the North Fork Smith River in Southwest Oregon as Outstanding Resource Waters. The commission classified the remote river, which begins in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, and its tributaries in 2017.
The Outstanding Resource Waters designation for Crater Lake and Waldo Lake prevents activities that would potentially harm water quality at either lake. It prohibits permitted discharges into the waters, except for short-term stormwater permits for construction. The designation also prohibits any new discharges, with the exception of those resulting from public health or safety emergencies or restoration and improvement projects. Existing recreation and tourism activities will continue at both lakes.
“It’s an honor to grant additional protection to two of Oregon’s natural wonders, Crater Lake and Waldo Lake,” said EQC Chair Kathleen George. “This special recognition will preserve the natural habitat, cultural and recreational benefits of these amazing places for future generations.”
The vote on Thursday came in response to a citizen petition submitted to the commission by the Northwest Environmental Defense Center in 2019. The nonprofit called for protections for Waldo Lake and the commission added Crater Lake to the proposal. The ruling amends Oregon’s water quality standards to ensure that the current high water quality and exceptional ecological characteristics and recreational values of these waters are protected.
Both lakes offer exceptional clarity and vibrant blue waters. While most lakes in the United States have visibility of less than 30 feet, Crater Lake and Waldo Lake have average visibilities of more than 100 feet. Both lakes are treasured recreation and tourism hotspots.
Outstanding Resource Waters are high quality waters with extraordinary character and ecological or recreational value. They may also be critical habitat areas. The state has the authority to designate Outstanding Resource Waters as part of the Oregon’s water quality standards under the federal Clean Water Act.
Crater Lake is at the heart of a National Park and Waldo Lake is wholly contained in the Willamette National Forest near the crest of the Cascades. The Outstanding Resource Waters designation by the State of Oregon will complement and support the protections provided by the National Park Service for Crater Lake and the U.S. Forest Service for Waldo Lake.
Among the largest natural lakes in Oregon, Waldo Lake is also one of the most pure lakes in the world, according to the Forest Service. It is a gem worthy of protection.
“The Willamette National Forest places high importance on protecting the water quality of Waldo Lake and has a history of protecting this area,” said Middle Fork District Ranger Molly Juillerat. “We also value the recreational, educational and scientific opportunities that the Waldo Basin provides.”
Surrounded by cliffs, Crater Lake is fed entirely by rain and snow. Scientists consider Crater Lake to be the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world. At a depth of 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. The water’s intense blue color is an indication of its great depth and purity.
Crater Lake National Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman said the National Park Service was pleased to have the opportunity to work with DEQ on the designation of Crater Lake as Outstanding Resource Waters.
“(DEQ’s) early engagement with the park allowed us to collect input from a number of experts within the NPS and Department of the Interior to ensure that the designation provided the highest level of protection for park waters consistent with the mission and mandate for the Service,” Ackerman said. “We look forward to continuing our exceptional relationship with DEQ and other state agencies in seeking to protect the park and its resources in perpetuity.”
– Dylan Darling, DEQ Western Region public affairs specialist
A new interagency report shows a drop in pesticide levels in a majority of watersheds across Oregon monitored by a coalition of state agencies. The finding is contained in the 2017-19 Biennium Report, which looks at pesticide levels in selected streams in various parts of Oregon.
The report is authored by an interagency water quality management team making up Oregon’s Pesticide Stewardship Partnership. The program has been working to reduce the levels of pesticides in watersheds through voluntary partnerships. Their report is based on more than 1,000 surface water samples collected and analyzed for 129 pesticide compounds, including 57 herbicides, 40 insecticides, ten fungicides, and 16 pesticide concentrations.
Nearly 70 percent of the sites tested showed a measurable improvement, meaning pesticides were detected less frequently and in lower concentrations than in the prior two years. Fourteen percent remained unchanged. About 17 percent of the watersheds showed more frequent detections or more detectable pesticide concentrations. Monitoring locations are not random across the state. Areas of concern for pesticides are prioritized, and sites change depending on where detections are thought more likely to occur.
The report attributes the improvements to the success of the program’s efforts at the local level to combine pesticide monitoring with training and tools for landowners – principally farmers – to help reduce the amount of pesticide runoff in streams and rivers. The program is a non-regulatory, voluntary partnership between state, local and tribal agencies and private stakeholders to address water quality concerns connected to pesticide use.
One aspect of the program which may be helping lower the occurrence of pesticides are grants given for projects designed to prevent pesticides from entering water systems in farming and other areas. These grants fund projects that provide farmers and other pesticide applicators training to reduce pesticide drift and runoff and switch to lower risk alternative pest control methods. Previously, grant funds have been used to obtain equipment that help farmers see where their equipment is spraying – and where it is wasting – chemicals, so they can make adjustments and save thousands of pounds of chemicals from being wastefully sprayed and possibly enter nearby water bodies.
About the Water Quality Pesticide Management Team The team addresses water quality issues in Oregon related to pesticide use with representatives from the following agencies:
• Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) • Department of Forestry (ODF) • Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) • Oregon Health Authority (OHA) • Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) • Oregon State University (OSU)
–Jennifer Flynt, public affairs specialist, and the Water Quality Pesticide Management Team
Nearly 20 organizations around the state can now step up their efforts to reduce waste, increase reuse and repair, rescue food and support responsible recycling.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality awarded $595,168 in grants to 17 organizations to boost projects that benefit Oregon’s communities and environment.
“DEQ is proud to support innovative projects that reduce waste and provide educational and economic opportunities in Oregon,” said Lydia Emer, DEQ land quality administrator. “These grants serve communities all around the state that don’t otherwise have the resources they need to do this important work.”
Funded projects include:
• CJ’s Training Camp through the Loopt Foundation in Portland, which focuses on eliminating waste in the apparel industry. CJ’s Training Camp will use its $23,243 grant to introduce students, many from historically underserved communities, to the full environmental impact of clothing manufacturing by focusing on Portland Trail Blazer star CJ McCollum’s game jersey. Ultimately, students will develop and pitch their own sustainable business to reduce the environmental and human health impacts of apparel.
• The Library of Things, a new library collection of nontraditional items at the Salem Public Library. The $43,300 grant will allow the library to purchase and develop a borrowing system for items like cooking pans and appliances, yard and garden tools, electronic devices, games and toys and sewing equipment.
• Mobile Recycling Program in Wallowa County. The $38,381 award will support a new part-time position and the purchase of a new trailer and bins to collect sorted recyclable material from local schools, community events and businesses for delivery to Wallow County’s Recycling Center.
“Wallowa County is thrilled to receive a Materials Management grant from DEQ. As a rural county in remote, northeastern Oregon, we struggle to provide the same services as urban areas,” said Katy Nesbitt, Wallowa County director of natural resources and economic development. “This funding will help us capture more clean, sorted, recyclable material, provide a part-time position in an economically distressed area, and provide increased opportunities for solid waste education.”
DEQ has awarded more than $9 million in materials management grants since 1991. Many of the projects serve economically distressed and historically underserved communities. The program moves the state toward its 2050 Vision for Materials Management, and plays a critical role in engaging Oregon communities in sustainable materials management practices.
— Jennifer Flynt and Laura Gleim, public affairs specialists with Marie Diodati, grant coordinator. Marie joined DEQ in 2018 to coordinate the Materials Management Grants program. She is an advocate for a more relationship-oriented, human centered approach to the business of protecting the environment.