SALEM, Ore. — Those in Southern Oregon who frequently check air quality readings due to unhealthy levels of lingering smoke may be pleased to learn that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) which operates many of those monitoring stations just received a $314,375 investment from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to the EPA, the grant is specifically intended to help support the DEQ's air monitoring programs, maintaining the state's monitoring network for hazardous air pollutants. The DEQ also works to reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants and enforces air regulations in the state.
Pollutants Levels Drop Between 1970 and 2017 (from the EPA)
- Sulfur dioxide (1-hour) - ↓ 88%
- Lead (3-month average) - ↓ 80%
- Carbon monoxide (8-hour) - ↓ 77%
- Nitrogen dioxide (annual) - ↓ 56%
- Fine Particulate Matter (24-hour) - ↓ 40%
- Coarse Particulate Matter (24-hour) - ↓ 34%
- Ground-level ozone (8-hour) - ↓ 22%
“EPA and our regulatory partners at the state and local level have taken significant steps to dramatically reduce hazardous air pollutants and provide important health protections,” said EPA Regional Administrator Chris Hladick. “This grant helps further protect our communities and gives us a better understanding of the air pollution sources that may be affecting Oregon’s local air quality.”
There are currently 187 hazardous air pollutants, or "air toxics," regulated under the Clean Air Act that have been associated with a wide variety of adverse health effects, including cancer and neurological effects. These air toxics come from multiple sources—including major stationary, area, and mobile sources, resulting in community exposure to these pollutants.
The National Air Toxics Trends Station program was developed to fulfill the need for long-term hazardous air pollutants monitoring data of consistent quality. These sites are part of a 27-site national network of air pollution monitoring stations. The primary purpose of the network is tracking trends in ambient air pollutant levels to help measure progress toward reducing emissions and health risks.
DEQ is currently operating two of these National Air Toxics Trends monitoring sites in Oregon. One station is in La Grande (a rural site) and the other is in Portland (an urban site). EPA grant funding supports the activities of DEQ in the operation of these two sites. EPA has provided grant funding to support DEQ’s air quality monitoring program for more than a decade.
“EPA’s grant will support our ability to make science-based decisions, which is the cornerstone of our work and critical for advancing healthy communities and economic progress in Oregon,” said DEQ Director Richard Whitman. “Our progress is most effectively achieved with support from our federal partners and work with local communities to meet regulatory standards."
According to the EPA's most recent air trends report, the combined emissions of six major pollutants dropped by 73 percent between 1970 and 2017. The EPA also claims that average concentrations of many pollutants decreased significantly between 1990 and 2017 [see sidebar for more details].
The Clean Air Act was established to lower levels of six common pollutants—particles, ozone, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide—and toxic pollutants. The gathering of data on actual conditions is key to both state and local clean air programs.