Another day, another DEQ Roadshow, this time in Pendleton.
I’ve been following DEQ’s Rachel Sakata as she updates local communities on the initial recommendations of the Woodsmoke Workgroup. The destination cities are or have been, concerned with attainment of EPA air quality thresholds. House Bill 3068 directed DEQ to study woodsmoke and make recommendations:
Consult with members of the public from rural and urban communities, as well as different regions of the state, about its preliminary findings and recommendations relating to potential strategies to reduce woodstove smoke.
Tonight’s session coincided with Pendleton’s regularly scheduled Air Quality Commission, chaired by Klaus Hoehna. He summarized the work they’ve been doing since the Commission was founded in 1991.
The Commission did an inventory in 1999 and determined they had 800 wood burning stoves, since then they’ve replaced 186 stoves, 144 of them to clean burning gas or propane, for approximately $500,000. Key to their success in cleaning up their air, a 5-year, $3,500 interest-free loan for homeowners when they hire an approved, local licensed contractor to do the swap out.
Also coincidental, the Pendleton No-Burn season commenced this day, running from June 15th until October 1st.
About this time during the meeting I started pinching myself – was I dreaming, or is Pendleton doing a lot of things right? I shouted out, “I love Pendleton!”
What makes this city so dedicated and successful in terms of cleaning their air?
They started with a problem – challenging geography. Klaus called it a basin – it’s perfect for trapping woodsmoke close to the ground during winter months. One story I heard, Pendleton Air Quality Commissioner Marilyn Lohmann:
People would burn all weekend then on Monday when the kids returned to the elementary school there’d be a layer of soot inside
Speaking of education, since 2001 the Commission has been working with Sunridge Middle School where a dedicated teacher has made a big impact. The Commission’s agenda this night called out the 7th grade winners of the Air Quality Education Awards. Klaus describes the classroom visits,
Basically, we load the kids up with chocolate and play Jeopardy — the winners get t-shirts, a congratulatory letter and a $25 gift card
I’ll take Particulate Matter for $500.
As I reflect on the many meetings of the Woodsmoke Workgroup I’m reminded of Oakridge Mayor Jim Coey’s lament, “Give me a video I can take into the schools.”
Pendleton is a shining example of leadership in reducing woodsmoke.
Listen to Rachel’s presentation to the Pendleton Air Quality Commission: