This is a voluntary, non-regulatory program that supports environmental workforce development, waste reduction, environmental protection and economic savings. This year, the program is especially interested in working with coastal businesses, B-Corps, the metal finishing industry, small businesses and the food and beverage sector.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has made big changes to the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program’s Charge Ahead Rebate. As of Jan. 1, 2022, low- and moderate-income households are eligible for $5,000 back with the purchase or lease of a new or used battery electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Previously, the Charge Ahead Rebate was $2,500. In addition, if the purchase or lease is a new battery electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, then the rebate can be combined with the Standard Rebate for up to $7,500 back.
The Oregon Legislature agreed to the increase in May 2021. It also expanded the Charge Ahead Rebate to make low-income service providers eligible for money back.
New DEQ program will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon by 90% by 2050
Statewide, OR — Today the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission voted 3-1 to establish the Climate Protection Program which sets enforceable and declining limits on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels used throughout Oregon. The limits apply to diesel, gasoline, natural gas and propane, used in transportation, residential, commercial and industrial settings.
Along with other actions by the Oregon Legislature, this makes Oregon one of the few states in the nation with a comprehensive and clear pathway to reducing the emissions that cause global warming. As approved, the new rules put Oregon on track to reduce emissions from fossil fuels by 50% by 2035 and 90% by 2050, reductions that scientists agree are required to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
As part of ongoing efforts to improve air quality, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality today announced recipients of $8.1 million in funding for projects designed to reduce diesel emissions across the state and among vulnerable populations. Under the Diesel Emissions Mitigation Grant Program, 12 projects will help eliminate air contaminants affecting public health and climate by retrofitting or replacing older medium- and heavy-duty diesel equipment with new, cleaner alternatives.
“Diesel pollution is a hazard to public health, especially for our most vulnerable community members, and today’s action will permanently remove tons of toxic emissions from our air,” said Oregon State Representative Rob Nosse. “DEQ’s grant program provides valuable support for diesel equipment owners to replace their older, more polluting equipment. I am excited to see this support go out to these businesses.”
The selected projects will remove more than 200 tons of harmful air pollution, including nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter, from Oregon’s air. They range from installing diesel particulate filters in heavy-duty truck fleets based in the Portland Metro area to replacing diesel-powered street sweepers with new, zero emissions electric equipment in the Willamette Valley, to converting waste and freight hauling trucks to zero emissions electric transportation across the state.
“These grants represent our commitment to reducing diesel emissions and supporting the transition of Oregon’s medium- and heavy-duty truck fleets to zero emissions in the future.
DEQ Air Quality Division Administrator Ali Mirzakhalili.
Recipients and awards include:
Recipient: Aramark Uniform & Career Apparel Group, Inc. Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Four (4) Electric Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $600,000
Recipient: Bedrock Concrete Cutting Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Three (3) Electric Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $201,475.51
Recipient: Cadman/Lehigh Hanson Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Sixty-Three (63) Exhaust Control Retrofits Grant Amount: $1,216,972.89
Recipient: City of Newberg Primary Location: Newberg Project Upgrade Type: One (1) Electric Equipment Replacement Grant Amount: $293,066
Recipient: City of Portland Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Eight (8) Electric Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $2,660,234
Recipient: City of Roses Disposal & Recycling Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: One (1) Electric Equipment Replacement Grant Amount: $238,046.50
Recipient: DeVry Construction LLC Primary Location: Medford Project Upgrade Type: One (1) Diesel Equipment Replacement Grant Amount: $25,994.80
Recipient: DMH Inc. Primary Location: Forest Grove Project Upgrade Type: One (1) Exhaust Control Retrofit Grant Amount: $14,006.63
Recipient: Estes Express Lines Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Thirteen (13) Diesel Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $316,783.75
Recipient: Morgan Industrial, Inc. Primary Location: Hillsboro Project Upgrade Type: Sixteen (16) Diesel Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $704,606.09
Recipient: TITAN Freight Systems Primary Location: Portland Project Upgrade Type: Six (6) Electric Equipment Replacements Grant Amount: $1,288,579.50
2021 Total Grant Amount: $8,111,015.67
“These grants represent our commitment to reducing diesel emissions and supporting the transition of Oregon’s medium- and heavy-duty truck fleets to zero emissions in the future,” said DEQ Air Quality Division Administrator Ali Mirzakhalili. “Combined with the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission’s recent decision to adopt the Advanced Clean Truck rules, we are leading the way to cleaner air in Oregon.”
DEQ’s Air Quality Program staff reviewed 71 grant applications, totaling more than $53 million in funding, and applied specific criteria from the Oregon Legislature and related administrative rules to evaluate proposed projects according to a point system. The 55 total points broke down as follows:
• Project summary and approach (5 points) • Project eligibility and type (15 points) • Project cost and air quality benefits (5 points) • Project location (10 points) • Applicant and fleet profile (20 points)
Project location criterion included a GIS evaluation against a vulnerable population map . The review considered how a proposed project would improve air quality in areas with the highest diesel emissions, most vulnerable populations and highest population densities.
Starting this month, DEQ will work with grant recipients to finalize project details and agreements. Funding will not be released until the process is complete. Project work should begin by mid-February 2022.
DEQ has approximately $40 million from the Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund established after Volkswagen was found to have cheated on emissions standards. The agency will award approximately $8 million in grants per year for five consecutive calendar years, beginning in 2021 and ending in 2025.
As we commemorate Veterans Day, we appreciate how the many veterans and active-duty military working at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are continuing the call to service in their current jobs. DEQ is proud to have 48 military service members on staff. We honor them for their sacrifices and thank them for always saying “yes” when called upon to support our country and Oregonians.
Earlier this week, Oregon Governor Kate Brown shared the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s work on a global stage when she served as a panelist on a session titled “Partnerships to Reduce Wasted Food on the American West Coast” at COP26, the 2021 United Nations climate change conference.
Speaking from Glasgow, Scotland, Governor Brown talked about Oregon’s climate emergency and how the state is taking meaningful steps to combat climate change through food waste reduction. The session, hosted by the Pacific Coast Collaborative, included members of the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment. The PCFWC is an unprecedented public-private partnership featuring some of the nation’s largest food businesses alongside local, state, and provincial governments – all working collaboratively toward a shared ambition of effective, industry-wide actions that prevent and reduce wasted food along the West Coast.
“Having the PCC [Pacific Coast Collaborative] allows us to share, replicate and learn from one another in ways that are extraordinarily valuable,” Governor Brown said.
Food that is grown and never eaten consumes an enormous amount of natural resources, and is responsible for 4 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. According to Oregon’s own Consumption-Based Emissions Inventory, food is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions caused by people in Oregon after transportation. To address this, Governor Brown included a directive in her 2020 Executive Order 20-04 on Climate that instructs DEQ to “take actions necessary to prevent and recover food waste, with the goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030.”
“We have to move further and faster,” Governor Brown said. “We just have to, no other choice.”
Among the efforts Governor Brown highlighted was Oregon’s new Bad Apple campaign, designed to help Oregon households save money and reduce food waste at home. The governor said she appreciated the campaign’s use of humor and direct appeal to consumers to save money.
You might not know this, but keeping poop out of the water is a lot of work! The Department of Environmental Quality is responsible for keeping Oregon’s waters safe and healthy and restoring streams and lakes from sources of nonpoint source pollution, such as bacteria from human and animal waste. This is a long-term investment that takes a combination of resources, partnerships and time.
An affordable loan program is again available for homeowners and small businesses in Oregon to repair or replace failing septic systems. Fixing or replacing failing septic systems benefits Oregonians by protecting public health and addressing threats to water quality.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and regional nonprofit lender Craft3 are teaming up to make Craft3’s Clean Water Loans available throughout the state. The Oregon Legislature approved $2 million for the program in the last session and Craft3 began accepting loan applications on Nov. 1, 2021.
Nov. 11 is Veteran’s Day, and DEQ thanks and honors our many staff who served and are still serving Oregon and the U.S. Today we are spotlighting Paul Seidel, Northwest Region Cleanup Manager, who recently retired from the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve after 22 years of service.
As an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, Paul Seidel has played active roles responding to major events, from the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Seidel, DEQ’s Northwest Region Cleanup Manager, says his time in the service helps keep his day job in perspective.
“I think I’m the only person at DEQ who has ever called for air support on an oil slick,” he said with a chuckle during a recent interview. “We called for two C-130s loaded with oil dispersants, and they took care of it.”
Paul said he decided to join the reserve “kind of late in life” after hearing a recruitment ad on the radio while working in Seattle. (“Those ads sometimes work!”) His father, who passed away this year, was a Korean veteran, something that Paul had always admired. He wasn’t entirely satisfied with the job he had at the time, so he did a little research and headed over to visit with a Coast Guard recruiter.
“Three months later, I’m shipped off to boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey.” He recalls a late night bus ride to the base and the “quintessential experience” of off-loading with a bunch of other sleepy-eyed recruits while “the drill sergeant just lays into you. They start working you over then and there.”
His first activation was immediately after 9/11. There were concerns that the Northwest energy infrastructure (waterfront Oil terminals) might be subject to attack. Paul drove to various sites to check their security systems. “The patrols were shore side, not water side. We were in a minivan rather than small boats.”
Less than 1 percent of Americans have military service experience, Paul noted, adding that he gained a keen perspective on leadership during his time in the reserve. At one point during the Deepwater Horizon incident, he was handed the reins to the cleanup work on Grand Isle as the section planning chief.
President Obama visited the scene, as did U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who promptly requested that the incident command double the booms he had ordered around an island that was home to a heron rookery. Paul took care of her request.
“You never know when you’re going to be in a situation where no one more senior is around and you need to be in charge,” he said. “You never know when you are going to have to provide leadership.”
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has awarded Oregon Green Schools $10,000 to help the nonprofit transition from a fully volunteer organization to establishing a more formal structure, including a small, paid professional staff. This shift will strengthen and expand OGS’s activities with schools across the state.
Photos: Students complete the Oregon Green Schools Green lunchroom audit to better understand food waste.
Filipino Americans make up one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States with nearly 20,000 residing in the State of Oregon. Every October we celebrate Filipino heritage to increase awareness of the significant role Filipinos have played in American history.
We had the opportunity to talk to Lynda Viray, someone who knows first hand about Filipino American heritage, to learn about her role at the Oregon Department of Quality, her background and what makes her tick. Lynda’s story is a reminder of the social, cultural, intellectual and economic contributions of Filipino Americans in the nation and Oregon.
Spoiled food is costing Oregon households real money. In fact, every year the average household loses $1,600 by throwing away spoiled food. And while many people are already taking steps to reduce food waste, research funded by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality found that 85% of Oregon households agreed they could do more to reduce food spoilage.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a recipient of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2021 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Award. EPA’s announcement of the 33 award winners on Sept. 22 coincides with Pollution Prevention Week. The award recognizes outstanding achievement in the design, manufacture, promotion and use of environmentally friendly products in homes, schools and businesses. Awardees were selected for active and exemplary participation in and promotion of the product certification and labeling program.
The harsh part of growing up as a minority is growing up not knowing that your background makes you an “other.” You could spend your whole life not knowing that you’re being treated differently, that you’re even different to begin with. You’re just you. It can take a long time to understand the full ramifications of that.
“I’ll count to three this time and we’ll clap after three, ok? One. Two. Three…”
Dylan Darling and Lauren Wirtis simultaneously clap into their microphones – a trick that makes it easier to align their separate recordings. You know in movies when the person says “take six!” and then snap the clapper board shut? Same thing.
You might think customers grumble when they drive their car into one of DEQ’s vehicle inspection stations – it’s time out of their day, after all, and it costs money. But think again. Over the past three months, surveys show a stunning 98.8 percent customer satisfaction with the Vehicle Inspection Program.
DEQ helped launch the program, where high school students earn college credit studying the John Day River watershed
For eight years, high school students in rural communities have earned college credits and learned about watershed science in the outdoor classroom provided by the Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute. The program includes hands-on learning at Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Oregon’s largest at 8,000 acres. 2021 was another success!
With all the surface water from the John Day River basin flowing through the park, Cottonwood Canyon is an ideal place for STEM-centered outdoor learning, including a fuller appreciation for the river’s connection to upstream communities. Students are able to study the John Day River watershed from its uppermost reaches to the Columbia River confluence – its seasons, histories, economies, communities and biomes.
The program also provides career pathways in fields such as recreation management, hydrology, geology, botany, wildlife sciences, photojournalism, technical/descriptive writing, history, renewable energy technologies and communications and public speaking.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality helped launch the institute in partnership with the Eastern Oregon Regional Solutions Program, Gilliam and Wheeler counties, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Eastern Oregon University, BLM Prineville District, John Day and Snake River Resource Advisory Council, U.S. Forest Service, NRCS, Oregon Water Enhancement Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Water Resource Department.
Meandering through the sagebrush and juniper trails at the Stevens Road Tract in southeast Bend, a hiker might never suspect they are walking over acres of buried trash.
Decades-old tires, building materials containing asbestos and household trash fill in former holes and collapsed lava tubes on about 40 acres of the newly planned 382-acre mixed-use housing and commercial development called Stevens Ranch. And soon, much of that trash will be cleaned up and either recycled or deposited in a modern landfill that’s built to protect people and wildlife from trash and the pollution it can create.
Jackson Dougan arrived at DEQ a little over two years ago, after completing a Master of Science in Global Change: Ecosystem Science & Policy from the University College Dublin in Ireland, as well as working in the New York State’s Office of the Attorney General and at the Environmental Defense Fund, among other places. He currently works as a natural resource specialist in the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.
As a proud member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, we thought this month would be a good time to check in with Jackson to see what he has been up to and if he has any recommendations for those who would like to learn more about his community.
Nearly three weeks into the official launch of Your DEQ Online, the agency’s new data management system, responses have been overwhelmingly positive.
“It has been very smooth,” said Ramesh Manickam, who serves as risk manager for the massive technology project. “We have not had any problems so far.”
Your DEQ Online allows regulated industries to conduct business with DEQ entirely online, including permits, certifications and licenses. It also offers electronic payments for fees and fines. The new system is being phased in over two years.
For years, the Oregon Smoke Blog has been the go-to resource for anyone wanting to learn the latest and best information on smoke conditions during wildfire season. And now, the blog is even better.
In preparation for the upcoming summer months, DEQ has revamped the blog to give it a cleaner design and make it more user friendly. It also is much more adaptable to mobile phone use, which is increasingly the preferred method for accessing the blog.
No matter how hard we work at “spring cleaning,” there’s often one area that’s overlooked – our old, unused electronics. A recent survey found that most of us in Oregon have broken or obsolete TVs, computers, printers or other electronics hiding in plain sight at home. These electronics languish in closets or under sofas, in attics or storage and generally evade our spring cleaning efforts.
The Oregon Department of Quality’s own Martina Frey has been chosen to serve on a national board that is working to modernize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s database for permit compliance and enforcement data.
Martina was one of a handful of water quality experts selected from across the United States to be part of the ICIS Modernization Board. ICIS stands for Integrated Compliance Information System, and is where states and EPA regional branches report their monitoring and enforcement activities.
Ali Mirzakhalili has worked as Oregon DEQ’s Air Quality Division administrator since 2018, but he has been involved with environmental issues for much longer. For Air Quality Awareness Week, we thought it was a good time to ask him about what drew him to this work and how he feels about Oregon’s environmental future.
DEQ’s Nick Haxton-Evans takes a water sample from a groundwater well in Harney County.
A new report from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Laboratory shows water quality data for groundwater in Harney County.
DEQ sampled water from 91 residential, agricultural and monitoring wells in the county and detected 42 different chemicals, including bacteria, pesticides, metals and nutrients. Some of these chemicals naturally exist within water and others are potential contaminants.
The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the importance of science to inform both government response and individual action. Climate science is used in a similar way to shape decision-making that can deliver a safe, equitable and sustainable future.
At the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, science is the cornerstone of the work we do to better understand the health of Oregon’s environment.
With just 82 employees, the Oregon Laboratory and Environmental Assessment Division, DEQ’s lab, provides the scientific and technical capacity to respond quickly to a broad range of emerging issues and unprecedented events, such as wildfires, that affect public health and the environment.
Curbing the 35% of food that goes uneaten each year will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve water and land resources, and support those facing food insecurity— which has become increasingly critical in the wake of COVID-19. DEQ’s Materials Management program prioritizes food waste reduction, and leads a variety of projects to reduce food waste. One of those efforts is DEQ’s ongoing support of regional food waste reductions through the Pacific Coast Collaborative, an international governmental agency focused on several environmental initiatives, including food waste reduction.
The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission made headlines recently with a landmark decision to grant additional environmental protections to Crater and Waldo lakes, known for their clear, pristine water. The commission’s approval of the Outstanding Resource Water designation was the end result of months of work by DEQ’s Water Quality Program, from thorough research to public outreach.
Mention Earth Day, and DEQ’s Sarah Idczak thinks back to her days as an undergrad at Western Washington University.
“The environmental college hosted an Annual Earth Day Festival. There were live bands, great food and lots of dancing. It was a great chance to take a step back from all the environmental problems we were studying and celebrate the victories,” says Idczak. “It allowed us to take a breath and just celebrate this big, beautiful blue marble that we all get to call home.”
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has released the 2020 Oregon Water Quality Index. The index assesses water quality at 160 ambient monitoring stations across the state. The goal is to determine the status and identify trends in waters of the state for ambient water quality conditions. The OWQI is the only water quality key performance measure reported to the Oregon Legislature. However, unlike the Integrated Report and Total Maximum Daily Load reports, the OWQI is not compared to water quality standards; does not evaluate if beneficial uses are supported; does not have regulatory standing; nor does it attempt to identify pollutant sources contributing to water quality impairments.
On March 31, 2021, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued the final cleanup plan for the Willamette Cove Upland. Willamette Cove is a 3,000-foot long property along the east bank of the Willamette River just north of the Steel Bridge. Historically used as a cooperage (barrel-making), lumber mill and dry dock, the site has extensive residual contamination.
DEQ has determined partial removal of contaminated soil, with a containment area for the remainder, will protect human health and the environment. Additionally, DEQ added a contingency remedy that will provide Metro flexibility as they finalize their planning for the site. The contingency remedy allows Metro to choose to move more contaminated material off-site and shrink the consolidation area. Read the final cleanup plan.
What does this really mean for the future of the upland area? Here are three things you need to know:
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, Oregon DEQ wants to honor and celebrate the many women in our agency, who work tirelessly to restore, maintain and enhance our state’s air, land and water. Their hard work, expertise and lived experiences provide unique perspectives and contributions to our mission.
Over the last month, we approached women who were new to DEQ, as well as those who have worked here a while and moved into new positions in the agency, and asked them the following question:
How do you think your experience as a woman has informed your work at DEQ?
I’ve pursued paths that, while they weren’t unheard of for women, women were definitely in the minority. I pursued my undergraduate degree in civil engineering at a time when women made up about 10% of the students in my degree program. That was the highest percentage among all the engineering fields of study at the time.
The Beaverton School District and Portland General Electric have partnered to bring the first two electric school buses to Oregon. Each vehicle will cut about 52,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. That means students, drivers and neighborhoods will breathe cleaner air and overall air quality will improve.
Across the state, students are beginning to head back to in-person schooling, and that means more and more school buses are returning to the roads. As such, Oregon DEQ is working to make that transportation cleaner and safer for those children and the environment.
From the extraordinary pandemic to the intruding smoke from massive wildfires, 2020 presented Oregon DEQ’s vehicle testing inspectors with demands they had never before encountered. Through ingenuity, flexibility and teamwork, they were able to move from standard operating procedures to an entirely new set of safety protocols and disinfection guidelines, all while maintaining the high quality of service and efficiency for which they are known.
Vehicle Inspection Program employees are Oregon DEQ’s frontline workers. They work with the public six days a week to ensure that fewer and fewer emissions and hazardous pollutants enter the environment. We are grateful for their service.
Crater Lake and Waldo Lake have always stood out as waters in Oregon.
Crater Lake, the namesake for the only National Park in the state, has clear blue water. The deep lake fills a volcanic caldera. Waldo Lake, nestled into the Cascades near Oakridge, holds exceptionally clear water. So clear that it is like distilled water.
The value of the pristine waters held by Crater and Waldo lakes is undeniable. But now it is official and the lakes have added state protections after action taken Thursday by the Environmental Quality Commission. The rulemaking board, which oversees the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, voted 4-0 to designate Crater Lake and Waldo Lake as Outstanding Resource Waters.
“Crater Lake and Waldo Lake are unique and invaluable treasures for Oregonians and the world,” said DEQ Director Richard Whitman. “Their crystal clear clean waters represent the best of Oregon’s natural beauty. By designating the lakes as Outstanding Resource Waters, Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission is assuring that these special places will remain unspoiled for present and future generations.”
It is only the second time the commission granted the special status to waters in Oregon. Crater Lake and Waldo Lake join the North Fork Smith River in Southwest Oregon as Outstanding Resource Waters. The commission classified the remote river, which begins in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, and its tributaries in 2017.
The Outstanding Resource Waters designation for Crater Lake and Waldo Lake prevents activities that would potentially harm water quality at either lake. It prohibits permitted discharges into the waters, except for short-term stormwater permits for construction. The designation also prohibits any new discharges, with the exception of those resulting from public health or safety emergencies or restoration and improvement projects. Existing recreation and tourism activities will continue at both lakes.
“It’s an honor to grant additional protection to two of Oregon’s natural wonders, Crater Lake and Waldo Lake,” said EQC Chair Kathleen George. “This special recognition will preserve the natural habitat, cultural and recreational benefits of these amazing places for future generations.”
The vote on Thursday came in response to a citizen petition submitted to the commission by the Northwest Environmental Defense Center in 2019. The nonprofit called for protections for Waldo Lake and the commission added Crater Lake to the proposal. The ruling amends Oregon’s water quality standards to ensure that the current high water quality and exceptional ecological characteristics and recreational values of these waters are protected.
Both lakes offer exceptional clarity and vibrant blue waters. While most lakes in the United States have visibility of less than 30 feet, Crater Lake and Waldo Lake have average visibilities of more than 100 feet. Both lakes are treasured recreation and tourism hotspots.
Outstanding Resource Waters are high quality waters with extraordinary character and ecological or recreational value. They may also be critical habitat areas. The state has the authority to designate Outstanding Resource Waters as part of the Oregon’s water quality standards under the federal Clean Water Act.
Crater Lake is at the heart of a National Park and Waldo Lake is wholly contained in the Willamette National Forest near the crest of the Cascades. The Outstanding Resource Waters designation by the State of Oregon will complement and support the protections provided by the National Park Service for Crater Lake and the U.S. Forest Service for Waldo Lake.
Among the largest natural lakes in Oregon, Waldo Lake is also one of the most pure lakes in the world, according to the Forest Service. It is a gem worthy of protection.
“The Willamette National Forest places high importance on protecting the water quality of Waldo Lake and has a history of protecting this area,” said Middle Fork District Ranger Molly Juillerat. “We also value the recreational, educational and scientific opportunities that the Waldo Basin provides.”
Surrounded by cliffs, Crater Lake is fed entirely by rain and snow. Scientists consider Crater Lake to be the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world. At a depth of 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. The water’s intense blue color is an indication of its great depth and purity.
Crater Lake National Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman said the National Park Service was pleased to have the opportunity to work with DEQ on the designation of Crater Lake as Outstanding Resource Waters.
“(DEQ’s) early engagement with the park allowed us to collect input from a number of experts within the NPS and Department of the Interior to ensure that the designation provided the highest level of protection for park waters consistent with the mission and mandate for the Service,” Ackerman said. “We look forward to continuing our exceptional relationship with DEQ and other state agencies in seeking to protect the park and its resources in perpetuity.”
– Dylan Darling, DEQ Western Region public affairs specialist
A new interagency report shows a drop in pesticide levels in a majority of watersheds across Oregon monitored by a coalition of state agencies. The finding is contained in the 2017-19 Biennium Report, which looks at pesticide levels in selected streams in various parts of Oregon.
The report is authored by an interagency water quality management team making up Oregon’s Pesticide Stewardship Partnership. The program has been working to reduce the levels of pesticides in watersheds through voluntary partnerships. Their report is based on more than 1,000 surface water samples collected and analyzed for 129 pesticide compounds, including 57 herbicides, 40 insecticides, ten fungicides, and 16 pesticide concentrations.
Nearly 70 percent of the sites tested showed a measurable improvement, meaning pesticides were detected less frequently and in lower concentrations than in the prior two years. Fourteen percent remained unchanged. About 17 percent of the watersheds showed more frequent detections or more detectable pesticide concentrations. Monitoring locations are not random across the state. Areas of concern for pesticides are prioritized, and sites change depending on where detections are thought more likely to occur.
The report attributes the improvements to the success of the program’s efforts at the local level to combine pesticide monitoring with training and tools for landowners – principally farmers – to help reduce the amount of pesticide runoff in streams and rivers. The program is a non-regulatory, voluntary partnership between state, local and tribal agencies and private stakeholders to address water quality concerns connected to pesticide use.
One aspect of the program which may be helping lower the occurrence of pesticides are grants given for projects designed to prevent pesticides from entering water systems in farming and other areas. These grants fund projects that provide farmers and other pesticide applicators training to reduce pesticide drift and runoff and switch to lower risk alternative pest control methods. Previously, grant funds have been used to obtain equipment that help farmers see where their equipment is spraying – and where it is wasting – chemicals, so they can make adjustments and save thousands of pounds of chemicals from being wastefully sprayed and possibly enter nearby water bodies.
About the Water Quality Pesticide Management Team The team addresses water quality issues in Oregon related to pesticide use with representatives from the following agencies:
• Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) • Department of Forestry (ODF) • Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) • Oregon Health Authority (OHA) • Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) • Oregon State University (OSU)
–Jennifer Flynt, public affairs specialist, and the Water Quality Pesticide Management Team
Nearly 20 organizations around the state can now step up their efforts to reduce waste, increase reuse and repair, rescue food and support responsible recycling.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality awarded $595,168 in grants to 17 organizations to boost projects that benefit Oregon’s communities and environment.
“DEQ is proud to support innovative projects that reduce waste and provide educational and economic opportunities in Oregon,” said Lydia Emer, DEQ land quality administrator. “These grants serve communities all around the state that don’t otherwise have the resources they need to do this important work.”
Funded projects include:
• CJ’s Training Camp through the Loopt Foundation in Portland, which focuses on eliminating waste in the apparel industry. CJ’s Training Camp will use its $23,243 grant to introduce students, many from historically underserved communities, to the full environmental impact of clothing manufacturing by focusing on Portland Trail Blazer star CJ McCollum’s game jersey. Ultimately, students will develop and pitch their own sustainable business to reduce the environmental and human health impacts of apparel.
• The Library of Things, a new library collection of nontraditional items at the Salem Public Library. The $43,300 grant will allow the library to purchase and develop a borrowing system for items like cooking pans and appliances, yard and garden tools, electronic devices, games and toys and sewing equipment.
• Mobile Recycling Program in Wallowa County. The $38,381 award will support a new part-time position and the purchase of a new trailer and bins to collect sorted recyclable material from local schools, community events and businesses for delivery to Wallow County’s Recycling Center.
“Wallowa County is thrilled to receive a Materials Management grant from DEQ. As a rural county in remote, northeastern Oregon, we struggle to provide the same services as urban areas,” said Katy Nesbitt, Wallowa County director of natural resources and economic development. “This funding will help us capture more clean, sorted, recyclable material, provide a part-time position in an economically distressed area, and provide increased opportunities for solid waste education.”
DEQ has awarded more than $9 million in materials management grants since 1991. Many of the projects serve economically distressed and historically underserved communities. The program moves the state toward its 2050 Vision for Materials Management, and plays a critical role in engaging Oregon communities in sustainable materials management practices.
— Jennifer Flynt and Laura Gleim, public affairs specialists with Marie Diodati, grant coordinator. Marie joined DEQ in 2018 to coordinate the Materials Management Grants program. She is an advocate for a more relationship-oriented, human centered approach to the business of protecting the environment.
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.
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.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced the agency’s plan to preserve their weak standards on how much “soot” – or fine particulate matter – can be released into our air. This is a public health failure and the result of ignoring scientific evidence that a stronger standard is needed to prevent more disease and death.
Health impacts associated with high levels of PM2.5 (fine particulates) are documented through thousands of studies, most of which are cited in EPA’s own assessment of current science. Impacts include permanent impaired lung development in children and impaired cardiovascular and lung function in adults and seniors. These impacts are associated with high incidences of asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, nervous system effects, cancer and premature death. Recent studies are finding associations of ambient air pollution and fine particulate air pollution with adverse birth outcomes such as still births and low birth weights, diabetes, and impaired neurodevelopment and cognitive function.
A study published in August 2018 in Environmental Health Perspectives reviewed the extensive environmental health literature and found a significant association of local air pollution with daily deaths in 135 U.S. cities, including Portland. For PM2.5, the study found that for every incremental increase in pollution concentration there was a corresponding and measurable increase in daily deaths, even on days with fine particle levels well below the existing standard. Increased COVID-19 related mortality and morbidity also has been associated with increased particulate matter pollution concentration.
EPA arrived at its final decision by ignoring the latest science and comments from many public health and environmental agencies, including those submitted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Health Authority. The federal Clean Air Act requires that EPA set the soot standard at a level necessary to protect public health and allow an adequate margin of safety. Retaining the current standards fails to deliver that objective.
So why did EPA choose this path when the agency’s mission is to improve air quality? One cynical possibility is that tightening the soot standard could make the agency look bad. One way EPA measures success is to count the number of non-attainment areas in the country – those are the areas that fail to meet air quality standards. When standards are strengthened, more areas fall out of attainment. But the real measure of success should be improving air quality. Policy shouldn’t be dictated by the potential for bad optics, but instead should be guided by science and the public interest.
This decision will likely face legal challenges and we urge the incoming administration to reconsider this decision and return EPA to real environmental protections that are supported by science and protect our air and our health.
Ali Mirzakhalili is the administrator of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Program.
More than a dozen experts with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are preparing to participate in 13 of 32 sessions on environmental protection, compliance, new technologies, sustainable business practices and trending policy issues Dec. 8-9 during the Business and Environment Conference sponsored by DEQ, Washington Department of Ecology and the Northwest Environmental Business Council.
DEQ staff will bring a wide range of experience to the table to discuss with panelists and attendees during the virtual conference.
To give our readers a sense of the scope of DEQ’s subject matter expertise we’re sharing a little bit about the issues DEQ’s staff and others will tackle starting with an introduction of DEQ’s Director, Richard Whitman (left).
Director Whitman will join Tony Barber, Director of Oregon Operations for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 and Rich Doenges, Southwest Region Director, Washington State Department of Environmental Quality, to kick off the conference during the “Meet the Regulators” session.
Names of Panels and DEQ staff participants
Clean Air Act Permits
Matt Hoffman and Patty Jacobs from DEQ’s Air Quality Division will discuss when an air quality permit is required, how to get it and how to keep it through compliance and other permit elements.
Introduction to Clean Water Act Permits Panel
Jeff Navarro and Geoff Rabinowitz from DEQ’s Water Quality Division will cover the fundamentals of water quality permitting, an overview of the Clean Water Act, the framework and drivers of the National Pollutant Discharge System permit program regulations, the permitting application process, watersheds, and more.
Using Due Diligence Strategically
Cheyenne Chapman from DEQ’s Land Quality Division will moderate a session on environmental liabilities in property transactions which can make or break a deal. She will lead the discussion on how to identify and manage environmental risks and options for quantifying, managing and/or resolving those risks.
RCRA: Dangerous Waste Fundamentals
Brian Allen in DEQ’s Land Quality Division will participate in a session covering the basics of hazardous waste regulation with a focus on the underlying Resource Conservation and Recovery Act statute and Washington/Oregon state regulations. The discussion will cover waste identification, generator status, proper accumulation, labeling, record keeping and compliance.
Navigating the Enforcement Process
Jeff Bachman in DEQ’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement will discuss how an administrative enforcement action works. This panel will present a skit on negotiating a civil penalty assessment and order involving environmental violations.
PFAS: Current & Future State Agency Actions
Kevin Masterson from DEQ’s Land Quality Division will discuss the current state of rulemaking, regulation, environmental assessment and pollution prevention efforts related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in water supplies, products and more.
Advanced Stormwater: Changes in 1200-Z
Krista Ratliff in DEQ’s Water Quality Division is currently working on a rulemaking to renew the 1200-Z Stormwater Discharge General Permit. This panel will cover the permit renewal process and changes to expect in the renewed permit.
Conversation on Environmental Justice and Social Equity
Ann Farris from DEQ’s Land Quality Division in the Western Region office will talk with panelists and attendees about environmental justice and social equity. She will share how environmental justice and social equity principles have been incorporated into DEQ projects.
Cleaner Air Oregon
Keith Johnson, DEQ Air Quality Division, will participate in a panel on Oregon’s comprehensive air toxics regulatory program, Cleaner Air Oregon, which just celebrated its two year birthday. This panel will spotlight CAO’s implementation to date, and consider where the program will go from here.
What’s Up With the Clean Water Act?
Justin Green, DEQ’s Water Quality Administrator, will discuss the impacts and implications of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the County of Maui, the Environmental Protection Agency’s revised Waters of the United States rule, and EPA’s modifications to the Clean Water Act 401 Certification rules. This will be a round-table discussion on how Washington and Oregon are dealing with these changes.
Oregon’s Cap and Reduce Program: What’s on the GHG Horizon
Colin McConnaha, DEQ’s Office of Greenhouse Gas Programs, will discuss program development, framework, and implications, focusing on what the program is likely to mean for sources in Oregon. In March 2020, Gov. Brown issued an executive order directing DEQ to take actions to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including implementation of a cap and reduce program to reduce state GHG emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.
Managing Compliance & Continuity in Challenging Times
Kieran O’Donnell, DEQ’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement Manager, will discuss how these challenging economic times are affecting the stability of the environmental sector. The panel will cover what and how constraints have impacted operations, agency engagement, compliance and enforcement, and strategies for adapting best practices to create continuity and keep moving forward.
Modernizing Oregon’s Recycling System
David Allaway and Sanne Stienstra, in DEQ’s Materials Management Program (Land Quality Division), will talk about the Recycling Steering Committee that convened in response to unprecedented recycling market disruptions that had a profound impact on recycling programs throughout the Pacific Northwest. This presentation will summarize the committee’s process, innovative research conducted for the project, the group’s consensus recommendation, and DEQ’s draft legislative concept for modernizing Oregon’s recycling system.
Your DEQ Online: A New Cloud-Based System for Doing Business with DEQ
Harry Esteve, DEQ’s Communications Manager, will lead a panel comprised of the following DEQ staff:
Justin Green, Water Quality Administrator, Travis Luckey, Chief Information Officer, Angel Gillette, Your DEQ Online Project Manager, Christine Svetkovich, Water Quality Manager and Mitch Frister, Your DEQ Online Project Team Member. This panel of subject matter experts will share insights about DEQ’s move toward a central online hub to streamline the way we accept, process and share information. DEQ’s new Environmental Data Management System, called Your DEQ Online, will provide an easy and intuitive online system for connecting to DEQ.
The Clean Waste State Revolving Fund is one of 33 conference exhibitors.
CWSRF staff will be available to discuss the programs work. CWSRF supports communities by funding projects that improve water quality and environmental outcomes for the State of Oregon. The program is dedicated to working with small communities and on projects that increase financial and environmental sustainability, climate resiliency and water and energy efficiency.
Business & The Environment focuses on industry-wide issues and is a collaborative endeavor presented by DEQ, Northwest Environmental Business Council) and Washington Department of Ecology. The conference is the region’s largest environmental conference and expo.
What happens when oil and hazardous materials spill into the environment? DEQ springs into action to ensure it doesn’t impact public health or the environment. DEQ receives 1,500 reports of oil spills per year. Most of these incidents are small, but about 150 per year require a more in-depth response.
This month on GreenState, it’s time to talk about communications. Who’s on the comms team? What do they do? How is the comms team working to help you? That’s what we’re getting into this month — well, that and learning who at DEQ has biked from Boulder, Colorado, to Eugene.