Local collaborative efforts result in cleaner and healthier air during winter months
September 23, 2022
Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is announcing that the air quality in the Oakridge-Westfir communities of southern Oregon now meets the fine particulate National Ambient Air Quality Standard under the Clean Air Act.
“This milestone demonstrates that working together on creative, locally driven solutions is the best way to make progress and improve people’s health and quality of life,” said Casey Sixkiller, EPA Regional Administrator for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. “Thanks to the tireless collaboration between LRAPA and local communities, residents of Oakridge-Westfir are breathing cleaner and healthier air during winter months. EPA is proud to have been a partner in these efforts.”
“The redesignation of the Oakridge-Westfir airshed to attainment for the federal National Ambient Air Quality Standards marks an outstanding improvement in air quality. This accomplishment is the culmination of years of effort and cooperation from local partners and the people of Oakridge-Westfir to reduce particulate air pollution from wood stoves,” said Steve Dietrich, LRAPA Executive Director. “LRAPA is grateful these relationships have been effective and looks forward to our continued effort maintaining the air quality standards together.”
“Oakridge is grateful for the redesignation and the improvement in air quality,” commented Chrissy Hollett, Oakridge Mayor “Achieving this milestone is a great example of how complicated problems can be resolved through public partnership and collaboration. Oakridge’s air is cleaner and we believe we will see a healthier impact on our community for years to come.”
“Becoming redesignated as a community that meets the air quality standards for Particulate Matter is exciting because it shows that working together as individuals and as a community we can make change to improve daily life in Oakridge,” said Sarah Altemus-Pope, Southern Willamette Solutions Executive Director. “Now, by being in attainment, Oakridge can look forward to healthier winter air, tools to cope with winter and summer smoke when it happens, and less red tape for economic development.”
The Oakridge-Westfir airshed, a mile-wide valley along the middle fork of the Willamette River, has been a “nonattainment area” for particulate matter since 1987, meaning it did not meet the federal health-based Clean Air Act standard for that pollutant.
Particulate matter pollution, or PM2.5, contains tiny particles about 1/30 the size of a human hair and comes from wildfires, car exhaust, crop burning, and smoke from woodstoves. Scientific studies have linked PM exposure to a variety problems, including: eye, nose and throat irritation; coughing or difficulty breathing; decreased lung function; aggravated asthma; irregular heartbeat; and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
The Lane Regional Air Protection Agency, with help from two EPA Targeted Airshed Grants totaling nearly $8 million, led an ambitious air quality improvement program. Efforts included replacing old woodstoves, weatherizing homes, reducing emissions and adopting pollution control measures. LRAPA also partnered with the Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council, in coordination with the Oakridge School District, to provide community and school-based education on improving air quality.
For more information about particulate matter, visit https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/particulate-matter-pm-basics.
To learn how you can help improve air quality in Lane County, go to https://www.lrapa.org/.
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