Congratulations Oregonians – Oregon’s 2050 Vision for Materials Management is 10 Years Young

Photo by Minal Mistry, Cape Lookout, Oregon.

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.

This is no small thing. Oregon policymakers opened the doors to seeing the big picture of how the goods and services that flow in and out of our economy affect people and places. This big picture is sometimes referred to as life cycle, and it allows us to peer into the systemwide environmental and social impacts starting from resource extraction, production, distribution, use and disposal.

This full life cycle perspective allows us to think differently and deeply about environmental protection and about social responsibility. Some of the category-leading preventive initiatives that originated from the 2050 Vision include strategic plans for reducing food waste, socially and environmentally responsible built spaces, modernizing our recycling system and reducing plastic pollution, enabling an ethos of repairing and reusing, and seeking pathways that enable environmental justice and equity in the full life cycle of the things we consume regardless of where  they are made or disposed.

Place is important in many ways, starting with how we envision JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) priorities and outcomes in Oregon.

Importantly, the 2050 Vision calls for greater stewardship of the emissions, impacts, and burdens that are enmeshed in the globalized material networks that all Oregonians rely on, whether they order a pair of shoes from a catalog or buy packaged items at the grocery. For example, up to 60% of the food we eat in Oregon comes from outside the state. That means that emissions such as greenhouse gases released during production and distribution of those food items occur elsewhere on our behalf. The same is true about other impacts to land, water, and air that occur while producing, packaging, and transporting those food products – those damages happen in faraway places to maintain the Oregon way of living.

While the mission of DEQ was set up in the 1970s to clean up pollution within the geographic boundary of Oregon, it is the 2050 Vision that provides the needed framework to understand and act on broader ecological and social implications of the materials we routinely consume. This is a foundational shift in how Oregon thinks about environmental protection– the ability to analyze impacts of our way of living. This illustration shows the marriage of mission and vision for environmental and social care heading towards 2050.

So, what are some the ways that Oregon’s 2050 Vision might enable deeper and more equitable environmental protection and societal stewardship? I’ll offer three and perhaps you can think of a few more connections for the 2050 you can imagine.

First, using the systems perspective we can see the connections between many seemingly disparate activities related to materials. For example, plastic pollution is a global phenomenon and locally we are in the process of modernizing our recycling system guided by the 2050 Vision. It includes implementing an extended producer responsibility program which adds shared responsibilities and obligations between the maker and seller of packaged goods and the municipalities that provide trash and recycling services. This system allocates responsibility across multiple actors in the solid waste management systems and provides incentives to reduce environmental impacts, and for stewardship of distant places where recovered materials may end up. It creates opportunities for both industry and the state to improve conditions over time.

But plastics aren’t just a recycling issue, they are persistent and durable in the environment which makes them difficult to manage in different ecosystems – think plastics in waterways and in oceans. Growing evidence shows that plastics are a persistent pollutant as microplastics, particles and fibers smaller than 5 millimeters. Such particles have been identified from pole to pole, in snow, freshwater, oceans, stream sediment, soil, air, in fish, filter feeders, and wildlife, at times leading to the death of the individual by starvation, and even in human placenta.

DEQ’s mission to restore pollution damage, combined with Oregon’s 2050 Vision focus of preventing damage, creates a powerful framework to get ahead of chronic problems.

Second, all of us understand the importance of materials to our personal well-being to meet needs including food, shelter, mobility, education, and entertainment. Yet, many of those needs are satisfied by things made by people far from Oregon. Enhancing well-being is a goal of the 2050 Vision and it offers ways to reflect on what well-being means in terms of the DEQ mission and the responsibility to place and people – for Oregon, Oregonians and beyond. Place is important in many ways, starting with how we envision JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) priorities and outcomes in Oregon. Let’s consider how place might affect each of us. The affinities, fondness, bonds, (and perhaps irritations) that we form that determine our sense of place are varied and include the weather, educational, spiritual, and social community, built environment and services, regional foods (I am anticipating the scent and flavor of Hood strawberries), landmarks (seeing Loowit or Mt. St. Helens and Wy’east or Mt. Hood on my bike ride home), to neighbors and friends, flowers, and wildlife, even a fine local brew.

The 2050 Vision gives Oregon a way to think about JEDI in a broader and truly inclusive manner, to consider equity and justice in the scope of material life cycles. This way of looking at the global material flows is helping us and others think differently and imagine a tomorrow that reflects equitable prosperity with shared visioning and reciprocity.

Third, human beings and all life on the living Earth are faced with incredible challenges of unimaginable scale and complexity. These existential realities are not just limited to ecological damage; they also include immense deterioration of human potential in the global material networks. Among them: climate change, species extinction, land system changes (e.g., deforestation), pollution from industrial agriculture, novel entities (e.g., plastics, chemicals, and engineered materials), and freshwater availability. We may not feel the direct effects of these “shifts” here in Oregon, yet they are bound up to different degrees in the goods and services we rely on. Things like gasoline, electricity, food, clothing, housing, entertainment, communication, education, and many other aspects of daily life.

At the same, environmental existential effects are intricately bound to cascading lived realities for people and places in the supply networks that bring goods and services to our market. The lived realities include aspects such as pollution havens, human rights violations, oppressive labor practices, inequity, violations to indigenous cultures to name a few. Sit with that for a moment and imagine a different version for 2050 for your future self and the future of all who will come after us.

Material consumption drives economic activity so it may feel like we can’t imagine another future, but that is where Oregon’s 2050 Vision is the source of inspiration and perhaps our superpower too. It is the vehicle for imagining entirely different ways of being.

I invite you to add your inspirations to my list using the higher order goals of conserving resources, protecting the environment, and enhancing well-being of people and places. What does your 2050 look like?

​​ Minal is the Business Initiatives Lead​ with DEQ’s Materials Management Program. He focuses on enhancing well-being in the life cycles of materials produced and consumed in Oregon.


Oregon DEQ releases 2021 Oregon Water Quality Index

Bridge sampling location on the South Fork Coos River for the Ambient Water Quality Monitoring Program.

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.

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Personal Essay: Integrating Regional Solutions to DEQ’s Mission

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.

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Encouraging Green Infrastructure in Oregon

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.

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Aaron Borisenko in DEQ’s Lab nominated for public service award

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.

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Your DEQ Online technology fee takes effect in July

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.

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Air Quality Awareness Week: How do I make my air quality data count?

Some of the Air Quality Monitoring Team with a SensOR outside the Lab in Hillsboro (L to R): Luke Mattheis, Tom Roick, Dan Johnson and Anthony Barnack.

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?

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A poem for Earth Day 2022

On Earth Day reflecting

All that is She, a beauty unique

The essential poised on delicate precipices

Disaster and expectant becoming bubbling

The swing in between enormous in weight

Slumbering potential alive, awakening

On this Earth Day prevent the germ​

Of wicked problem taking root

Be hopeful for novel imaginaries sprouting

Toil no more for more-more-more-more

The well of being is deep and inclusive

Dwell here just a bit longer, reflecting

Remembering fondly someday hence

These be our good ‘ol days.

​​ Minal Mistry
​​ Minal Mistry

Minal is the Business Initiatives Lead​ with DEQ’s Materials Management Program. He focuses on enhancing well-being in the life cycles of materials produced and consumed in Oregon.


Planting roots: Lessons from my parents in sustainable living

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.

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Burning questions about burning? We have answers

Among the most frequently asked questions to DEQ at this time of year are:

  1. Am I allowed to burn yard debris in my backyard?
  2. What about smoke from my neighbor’s open burning?

Here are some answers, including links to valuable resources for anyone considering setting flame to branches, leaves or other residential debris.

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The three most important ways Oregon is fighting climate change

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.

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It’s Food Waste Prevention Week – Learn how to reduce food waste and save money!

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
Visit dontletgoodfoodgobad.org for specific tips on keeping your food fresher, longer.

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


DEQ tackles questions about so few women in STEM fields

Lori Pillsbury, as Division Administrator, she is LEAD/DEQ Lab’s fearless leader

For anyone who works in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, all you have to do is look around to see there are very few women scientists, lab technicians, researchers, etc. In fact, according to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Institute for Statistics, fewer than 30% of the world’s researchers are women.

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.

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Three things you need to know about Oregon’s Clean Fuels program

Cory-Ann Wind, Oregon Clean Fuels Program Manager

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.

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Johnson Oil in Clatskanie one step closer to redevelopment after latest DEQ cleanup project

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.

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DEQ and Oregon Sea Grant invite Oregon businesses to apply to host pollution prevention interns

Applications due Feb. 18, 2022

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Sea Grant are excited to announce the opportunity for Oregon businesses to host a paid, 10-week, full-time sustainability intern for the summer through the Oregon Applied Sustainability Experience Internship program.

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.

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DEQ implements changes to Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program

Rebates for low- and moderate-income households increased as of Jan. 1, 2022.

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.

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Environmental Quality Commission votes to establish Climate Protection Program

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.

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Oregon DEQ announces recipients of $8 million in diesel emission mitigation grants  

Loaded Truck Cruising the Highway by the Desert

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: Sysco Portland
Primary Location: Wilsonville
Project Upgrade Type: Twenty-One (21) Diesel Equipment Replacements
Grant Amount: $551,250

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.

-Susan C. Mills


Clearing the air about woodsmoke

How you burn wood in your wood stove or fireplace impacts air pollution.

Chilly nights around Oregon might inspire people to fire up wood stoves and fireplaces – but keep air quality in mind before striking a match.

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DEQ Thanks our Veterans and Active-Duty Military

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.

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Governor Brown Highlights DEQ’s Efforts to Tackle Food Waste at COP26 Summit

Photo (left to right): Gregor Robertson, Jennifer Hennessey (Gov. Inslee’s Senior Policy Advisor for Environment, Water & Ocean Health), Shereen D’Souza (California Deputy Secretary for Climate Policy and Government Relations), Kate Brown (Governor of State of Oregon), Marcene Mitchell (Senior Vice President of Climate Change, World Wildlife Fund), Dr. Richard Swannell (International Director of WRAP) and Jane Ewing (Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Walmart).

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 can watch the full presentation at: U.S. Climate Action Center at COP26 | Partnerships to Reduce Wasted Food on the American West Coast – YouTube

Learn more about DEQ’s work to reduce food waste at:  Department of Environmental Quality : Food Environmental Impacts and Actions : Food Environmental Impacts and Actions : State of Oregon

– Julie Miller, communications specialist


Two Decades of Work Result in Meeting Water Quality Standards for Bacteria in the Lower Columbia Slough

Photo: The Columbia Slough is a 19-mile-long complex of narrow, shallow channels located on the southern floodplain of the Columbia River between Fairview Lake and the Willamette River.

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.

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DEQ partnership will provide affordable loans for failing septic systems in Oregon

An onsite septic system at a country home in Oregon.

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.

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Recognizing DEQ Veteran Paul Seidel for 22 years of service with U.S. Coast Guard

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.

Ret. Commander Paul Seidel posing with his U.S. Coast Guard “shadow box” at the Oregon Department of Oregon.

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.”

–Harry Esteve, communications manager


Oregon awards Oregon Green Schools $10,000 grant

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.

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DEQ staff spotlight on Lynda Viray, in honor of Filipino American History Month

Lynda Viray, taking a selfie, social distancing and enjoying coffee on vacation.

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.

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New “Bad Apple” campaign helps Oregonians save money by keeping foods fresher, longer

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.

Continue reading “New “Bad Apple” campaign helps Oregonians save money by keeping foods fresher, longer”

DEQ receives EPA’s 2021 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Award

Lisa Cox (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality) and Brittney Wendell (Pollution Prevention Resource Center)

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.

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What it’s like to be ‘othered’

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.

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The future of air quality and wildfire smoke in Oregon

“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.

Continue reading “The future of air quality and wildfire smoke in Oregon”

DEQ’s vehicle inspection program gets record high marks from customers

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.

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Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute marks eight years of outdoor learning

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.

Photo credit: CCSI, 2019

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.

Learn more about Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute.

For information about community and economic development projects across the state, please visit:

DEQ’s Regional Solutions Team webpage.

Oregon’s Regional Solutions webpages.

– Randy Jones, Regional Solutions Coordinator for Oregon’s Eastern Region/Northeast and Greater Eastern Region


DEQ and Oregon State University conduct survey on how Oregonians heat their homes

Data needed for air quality research

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is partnering with Oregon State University to find out how people in Oregon heat their homes and the effects on air quality throughout the state.

To gather this data, DEQ’s Air Quality Division and OSU’s Consumer Insight and Market research group in Corvallis, Oregon are conducting a survey of residential home occupants in Oregon.

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Oregon DEQ releases wildfire smoke trends report for 2020

The air quality at Mirror Pond in Bend measured in the Hazardous range on Sept. 14, 2020.

The number of unhealthy air quality days caused by wildfires are increasing across Oregon. In 2020, those living here experienced the worst air quality ever recorded in the state.

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From landfill to housing: Cleanup begins at Stevens Ranch in Bend

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.

Continue reading “From landfill to housing: Cleanup begins at Stevens Ranch in Bend”

Jackson Dougan’s background and experience bring a unique perspective to DEQ

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.

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Gov. Brown signs bill to continue, expand EV rebates

Governor Kate Brown this week signed legislation to expand access to electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, particularly to people with low incomes and people of color.

By removing the current sunset on funding, House Bill 2165 will allow the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to continue offering rebates to those who buy electric vehicles.

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Your DEQ Online update: All systems go!

Ramesh Manickam, Your DEQ Online Risk Manager, is working with the new data management system.

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.

Continue reading “Your DEQ Online update: All systems go!”

Introducing the new and improved Oregon Smoke Blog

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.

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Include old electronics in your next spring cleaning purge

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.

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DEQ water quality analyst selected for national board

Martina Frey

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.

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Air Quality Awareness Week Q&A with Oregon DEQ’s Air Quality Division Administrator Ali Mirzakhalili

Ali Mirzakhalili at Sisters, Oregon

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.

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DEQ Lab releases groundwater quality report for Harney County

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.

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DEQ’s Lab makes science the cornerstone of environmental protection in Oregon

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.

Continue reading “DEQ’s Lab makes science the cornerstone of environmental protection in Oregon”

Food waste reduction work hits major milestone

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.

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Water quality team reflects on milestones while charting course ahead

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.

Continue reading “Water quality team reflects on milestones while charting course ahead”

Staff Spotlight on Sarah Idczak, her mapping skills are helping Oregon

Sarah Idczak, DEQ Emergency Response GIS Coordinator

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.”

Continue reading “Staff Spotlight on Sarah Idczak, her mapping skills are helping Oregon”

Updates: Gasoline Leak in Monmouth

Cleanup of a gasoline leak at Highway 99 and Main Street in Monmouth in April 2021. [Department of Environmental Quality]

This is the most current information about DEQ’s response efforts in Monmouth, where gasoline leaked into the sewer system and caused gasoline vapors to enter several buildings on Main Street.

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Oregon DEQ releases 2020 Oregon Water Quality Index

Bridge sampling location for the ambient water quality monitoring program.

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.

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Willamette Cove Cleanup Plan: 3 things to know

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.

Willamette Cove during its industrial phase in 1923 (left), and how it looks today (right)

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:

Continue reading “Willamette Cove Cleanup Plan: 3 things to know”

Women on the Move at DEQ

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?

Continue reading “Women on the Move at DEQ”

In her own words: Reflections on being a woman in leadership

Those early positive and supportive interactions with women managers gave me confidence and validation.

Jennifer Wigal, DEQ Water Quality Deputy Director

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.

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Old mines pose many dangers: Why DEQ and EPA restricted access to the old Opalite mercury mine

Massive hills of pinkish red rock stand along a lonely dirt road in far southeastern Oregon, near the Nevada border. They’re beautiful, reminiscent of Oregon’s treasured Painted Hills.

But there’s one big difference: these rocks are toxic.

Continue reading “Old mines pose many dangers: Why DEQ and EPA restricted access to the old Opalite mercury mine”

First electric school buses come to Oregon, bringing fresh air to students

Beaverton School District rolls out the first electric school busses in Oregon. [Beaverton School District video]

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.

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DEQ expands eligibility for school bus engine grants

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.

Continue reading “DEQ expands eligibility for school bus engine grants”

Oregon DEQ’s Vehicle Inspection Program puts 2020 in rearview mirror

Inspector checking vehicle diagnostics while customer waits at a safe distance in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.

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.

A new report, “Oregon DEQ Vehicle Inspection Program 2020 Update,” summarizes how the program managed the challenges. It provides details on staffing, testing options, improvement initiatives and what to expect next from the team.

Dan Sutherland disinfecting his station between customer visits at the NE Portland vehicle inspection station, June 30, 2020.

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.

–Susan C. Mills, public affairs specialist


Oregon expands DEQ protection of pristine waters in Crater Lake and Waldo Lake

Waldo Lake with Diamond Peak in the background on Sept. 5, 2020. Joe Yuska paddles a kayak across the exceptionally clear waters. [Photo by Debra Sturdevant, Copyright 2020]

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.

Crater Lake from Watchman Observation Station along the caldera rim on Thanksgiving weekend circa 2015. [Photo by Debra Sturdevant, Copyright 2015]

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.

The moon rises over Crater Lake as seen from the caldera rim in 2007. [Photo by Debra Sturdevant, Copyright 2007]

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

Waldo Lake from a campsite on the east shore on Sept. 5, 2020. The crystal clear waters of Waldo Lake are like distilled water. [Photo by Debra Sturdevant, Copyright 2020]

State natural resource agencies report improvements in water quality in parts of Oregon

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.

View the full 2017-19 Biennium Report here.

Learn more: Pesticide Stewardship Partnership Fact Sheet.

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

# # #


Local communities get boost for projects that reduce waste

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.

“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 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:

Loopt Foundation featuring (left to right) CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers and Scott Hamlin, CEO Founder of Loopt Works

• 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 ranch farm homestead in looks cold and bright during winter frost

“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.

See the full list of 2020 funded projects.

— 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.


DEQ’s Jean-Karlo Lemus takes us on brief environmental tour of his homeland in Puerto Rico

My name is Jean-Karlo Lemus, and I’m fairly new to Oregon. I’ve spent time in Pennsylvania and Georgia, but I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. The trek from the Caribbean to the Pacific Northwest has been a… transition to say the least.

Oregon’s forests and mountains are not unlike the forests and mountains of my native municipality, Arecibo. Just more coniferous instead of tropical. People ask me all the time, “What do you miss about home?” I would definitely have to say Puerto Rico’s geology.

One of the first things that comes to mind when it comes to Puerto Rico’s natural resources are its beaches, but Puerto Rico has other treasures that lay further inland. Within eyeshot of the shores are Puerto Rico’s central mountain ranges: miles and miles of rainforest peppered with misty mountains. Even as you approach the shoreline, the terrain in the north never fully flattens, and hills pepper the horizon. In Spanish, these hills are called “mogotes.” In English, we call them “karsts”.

I can’t tell you what Puerto Rico’s sediment is like—I was a paleontology-kid, not a geology-kid. But I think the clay up in the mountains is, well, clay? And burrowing into the taller mountains reveals a wealth of tiny fossilized shells and quartz crystals, sometimes hunks of the stuff the size of a grapefruit. Karsts, I am told, are limestone formations peeled away, revealing the stone within. It’s like someone cutting into a beef wellington, only instead of crust and beef it’s green with stone layers.

Karsts are natural geological developments, caused by tremors and landslides. As the quakes of December 2019 showed, Puerto Rico is on a fault zone. But they can also be man-made. The northern karst range is a mixture of both. When Route 22 was being constructed to facilitate transit towards San Juan in the East, the easiest path to take was straight through the northern karsts, which were blasted to make way for the roads. As you drive along, you’ll notice that the exposed sections of the karsts are steepled from this construction work.

The range stretches several miles, extending past the greater Arecibo area and further eastward towards Manati. They pepper the roadsides along with hills and farmland, until the central forest turns to cities.

Besides being really pretty, the karsts are an important part of Puerto Rico’s environment. Foliage still grows on them, making them home to smaller mammals or birds. Their presence also helps regulate the weather, to an extent, facilitating rainfall and regulating temperatures in the local area. They also help buffer some of the winds that come in from the shore.

Their biggest threat, sadly, is housing. Puerto Rico’s population is just under three million, and the need for affordable housing never quite ends. The quickest solution many go for is gated housing, creating large neighborhoods of homes. Unfortunately, these take up a lot of space, which is at a premium in the island. Too close to the shoreline, and you risk damages from hurricanes and flooding. But too far inland and you have to contend with the tricky terrain and faulty infrastructure of the central rural areas. The south of the island presents the difficulty of being farther from the northern ports and traveling through mountains, so the only available space for gated neighborhoods is in the vicinity of karsts. The good news is, recent efforts have protected Puerto Rico’s geological formations. The bad news is, it’s still an uphill battle to preserve them.

Between Puerto Rico’s rapid industrialization in the 1950s and other outside influences, Puerto Rico’s infrastructure isn’t the most forward-thinking. It’s mostly been in recent years that greater efforts have been taken to preserve our karst ranges and to establish nature preserves in the northern coast. I can say that seeing our natural formations bulldozed isn’t something I miss about Puerto Rico. Oregon’s efforts in preserving its forests are a hard-fought victory, and I’m glad they exist. It’s the kind of thing I wish we had more of back home.

— Jean-Karlo Lemus, a native of Puerto Rico, started work in March 2020 at Oregon Department of Environmental Quality as a receptionist at DEQ headquarters. He enjoys writing about cartoons when he’s not at work.


DEQ Lab releases groundwater quality report for Oregon’s Walla Walla Basin

A new report from DEQ’s Laboratory shows water quality data for groundwater aquifers in the Walla Walla River Basin in Oregon.

The basin straddles northeast Oregon and southeast Washington. DEQ sampled water from 100 residential and agricultural wells on the Oregon side and detected 41 different chemicals in the water, including pesticides, metals, nutrients and bacteria. Some of these chemicals, such as low levels of minerals, naturally exist within water, and others are contaminants.

Most contaminants detected in this study were at levels below EPA drinking water standards, but nitrates, lead and bacteria exceeded health standards in some wells.

DEQ shared individual water quality results with the well owners where the agency took samples, along with educational materials about EPA drinking water standards and well maintenance. Groundwater contaminants in drinking water wells could indicate that wells need repair or that there are nearby sources of contamination, such as failing septic systems or pesticides, fertilizers, manure or household chemicals applied to the land.

Oregon does not have water quality regulations for private wells. Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their wells and ensuring the water is safe to drink. Oregon only requires that domestic wells are tested for nitrate, arsenic and bacteria during real estate transactions.

“Many people rely on groundwater for domestic, industrial and agricultural reasons. We want to get a baseline understanding of the quality of Oregon’s aquifers, and hopefully going forward get trending data to understand how those aquifers may change over time,” said Paige Haxton-Evans, DEQ statewide groundwater quality monitoring coordinator and report author.

Well users can find more information about groundwater contaminants and about maintaining healthy wells and drinking water by visiting the Oregon Health Authority’s Domestic Well Safety Program webpage.

This is the third geographic area DEQ has studied as part of its Statewide Groundwater Quality Monitoring Program, which evaluates the current condition of Oregon’s groundwater.

Read the full Walla Walla Basin 2020 Groundwater Quality report.

– Laura Gleim, public affairs specialist

Building an air quality prediction tool

This is a guest blog by Lincoln High School student, Richard Deng, who built the Air Quality Prediction Tool. Listen to an interview with Richard on DEQ’s GreenState podcast.

Throughout the recent years, air quality in the Pacific Northwest has spiked multiple times due to wildfire smoke. With unpredictable spikes in air quality, families are caught off-guard. These sorts of incidents have occurred multiple times and will continue to surface. Without a reliable source of prediction, people are left unprepared to combat these events, and their health may be put at risk as a result.

Continue reading “Building an air quality prediction tool”

Youth Innovation in Air Quality

It’s Air Quality Awareness Week and National Wildfire Awareness Month, so… we’ve got a really cool episode. We’re talking with Richard Deng, a freshman in high school, who after experiencing a series of smoky summers decided to dedicate his time to making an air quality prediction tool that has now won multiple science fair awards.

Continue reading “Youth Innovation in Air Quality”