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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 Chairperson

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 Chairperson 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 chairperson

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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).

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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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DEQ extends vehicle inspection station closures to at least May 31, other inspection options available

Vehicle inspection station, Portland

UPDATED: May 15, 2020

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, which closed its vehicle inspection stations on March 17, has extended those closures through at least May 31, in an effort to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 among staff and customers.

Continue reading “DEQ extends vehicle inspection station closures to at least May 31, other inspection options available”
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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EPA taking comment on permits for dams along lower Columbia and Snake rivers

Little Goose Dam by U.S. Army Corps for Engineers, 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking the public for comment on draft discharge permits for eight federally regulated dams along the lower Columbia and lower Snake rivers.

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Memories of the New Carissa

  • boat

Swollen seas and strong winds combined to push the New Carissa onto the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay in winter 1999, starting an epic cleanup and removal saga for the large beached boat.

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DEQ enforces the law to protect and restore Oregon’s environment

In 2019, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued 247 enforcement notices – essentially penalties for violating environmental regulations. According to Kieran O’Donnell, Compliance and Enforcement Manager, that is the most DEQ has ever issued in a year. “Penalties are DEQ’s main tool to enforce the law,” Kieran says, “and it generates good environmental results.”

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DEQ responds to underground gasoline tank release in Canyonville

Contractors respond to underground gasoline tank release in Canyonville on Tuesday, March 3, 2020

An underground storage tank at a service station in Canyonville failed recently, releasing an estimated 3,000 gallons of gasoline into the ground. Some of the fuel seeped through the ground and into the creek near the Main Street crossing. The creek is a tributary of the South Umpqua River.

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Staff spotlight on Dana Bailey – Keeping DEQ safe

Dana Bailey

Dana Bailey is all about safety. If you’re not wearing the right gear, she’ll let you know. If you slouch at your desk, she’ll give you tips on ergonomics. As a safety specialist II., working out of DEQ’s Portland headquarters, she writes safety policy, leads safety trainings and conducts hazards assessments. She also serves as a consultant for DEQ’s three safety committees and ensures the agency complies with OR-OSHA rules. This September, Dana will celebrate 13 years at DEQ.

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DEQ’s pursuit of a Superfund site cleanup: Portland Harbor 101

Portland Harbor is a heavily industrialized stretch of the Willamette River, extending from Portland’s Broadway Bridge to Sauvie Island. Due to decades of industrial activity, some of the sediment, or mud, in the river and along the riverbank is contaminated with pollutants, including PCBs, dioxins and other potentially harmful chemicals. Work to clean up Portland Harbor has been going on for decades, so it is a good time to get back to basics and review some of the most important facts about the Portland Harbor Superfund Site:

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FRIDAY UPDATE: Excavation complete at OR 22 fuel spill cleanup, highway repaving underway

Photo credit: U.S. EPA

Cleanup crews finished excavating petroleum contaminated soil Thursday at the site of a fuel spill along the banks of the North Santiam River near Idanha – east of Salem and Detroit Lake on OR 22. The spill resulted from a tanker truck crash on Feb. 16 at milepost 63.

Continue reading “FRIDAY UPDATE: Excavation complete at OR 22 fuel spill cleanup, highway repaving underway”

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Update: Water samples show low levels of fuel chemicals in North Santiam River following OR 22 spill

Federal, state and local responders continue to clean up spilled fuel and contaminated soil along the banks of the North Santiam River near Idanha – east of Salem and Detroit Lake on OR 22 – following a crash on Feb. 16.

Continue reading “Update: Water samples show low levels of fuel chemicals in North Santiam River following OR 22 spill”