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.

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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.”

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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:

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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?

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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.

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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.

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