Greater Air Quality Monitoring Is Coming To Portland And The Oregon Coast

Air Quality Monitoring: It’s great news that the fight against air pollution is getting a boost in two of Oregon’s most economically challenged and racially diverse communities: one in Portland, and the other on the southern coast.

In order to bring attention to the issues of air pollution in “environmental justice communities,” the EPA has awarded funding to the Oregon DEQ, the environmental NGO Verde, and the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians.

The funds will be used to improve air quality monitoring and education in low-income, racial minorities, and other neighborhoods that bear a disproportionate share of pollution from sources such as nearby factories and roads.

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Greater Air Quality Monitoring Is Coming To Portland And The Oregon Coast

DEQ spokeswoman Lauren Wirtis said the agency will use the roughly $500,000 to co-design a monitoring framework with communities, institutions, and local agencies to collect better data that might lead to more action from the state.

She elaborated, saying that this includes letting communities use devices from DEQ’s instrument library to track PM and diesel emissions in their area.

Neighbors for Clean Air, a nonprofit that campaigns for improved local air quality, will also collaborate with the government agency. Mary Peveto, the company’s executive director, is overjoyed that more real-time air quality monitoring systems will soon be deployed.

She said that this would provide locals a chance to learn more about the data collection process, the hardest-hit areas, and potential solutions to pollution problems.

Greater Air Quality Monitoring Is Coming To Portland And The Oregon Coast
Greater Air Quality Monitoring Is Coming To Portland And The Oregon Coast

“first and first, I think, helps to immediately recenter this in community empowerment as the data is developed or collected,” Peveto said of the award money.

Nearly $120,000 will be provided to the community-based environmental advocacy group Verde to install air quality monitors in the Cully area. Black carbon, or soot, in the air will be the primary target of the monitoring.

Moreover half of Cully’s residents are persons of color, making it one of the most multicultural areas of Portland. DEQ reports that in 2018, the Cully area has the second-highest arsenic levels compared to other locations.

Oriana Magnera of the Green Party remarked that more has to be done to clean up the air in the area.

Magnera claimed that Cully is negatively impacted by the proximity of Portland International Airport. Diesel trucks and trains also contribute to pollution. The pollution in the area is exacerbated by the presence of glass recycling and asphalt grinding operations.

Magnera has expressed the hope that locals will be able to collect data from the air quality sensors and incorporate it with their own first-hand knowledge. She added that she hopes the information may be used to track down further polluters in the area and bring them to justice.

She emphasized the importance of having concrete evidence to back up community concerns in order to get the attention and respect of state and federal agencies.

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According to Chief Executive Officer Lee Ann Wander, the Coos tribes will use half of the grant money to expand their air quality monitoring network and educate the public about indoor and outdoor air quality.

She stated, “there is a perception that coastal air is always clean,” because of a lack of air quality monitoring in the areas immediately adjacent to the reservation and trust grounds.

“Many of our at-risk community members spend more time outdoors as a result of this misconception and consequently experience health problems that are directly related to bad air quality,” added Wander.

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