On a fittingly windy day that created dust and ash clouds that blocked some view of the mountains, Justin Spenillo, Environment Protection Agency (EPA) officer of Region 10, made rounds on Wednesday, Sept. 17 around Lakeview to bring attention to the PM Advance Plan.
Throughout his visit, he took the time to visit with town, county and media to address concerns and to show support of the area’s effort to control the issue of air quality. Kelly Potter, Regional Solutions Center liaison, and Larry Calkins, officer from Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), accompanied Spenillo during his visit.
In a nutshell, the PM Advance Plan is a county ordinance that would restrict burning on cold weather (red) days throughout the winter in order to help the air quality become better over time.
A main goal of the plan would be to control the air quality so it does not affect the health of sensitive citizens. Along with health, it would bring ease to economic concerns for local industries.
The goal that the county and town governments have is to keep out of “non-attainment designation,” which would tighten the regulations and requirements. As of now, the County is out of the non-attainment although the Particulate Matter standard of 2.5 is being violated.
During the Commissioners’ work session, Potter congratulated the local government for coming together to work on the tough issue of air quality. Spenillo said the ordinance and the steps taken to achieve a healthier area encourage him. “(Lake County) is more proactive compared to other areas that I am familiar with,” Spenillo said.
Lake County is not alone in the predicament of air quality. “Oddly enough it happens a lot in our region,” Spenillo added later as he listed off names like Klamath Falls, Oakridge, Pinehurst and areas of Idaho. He said that Oakridge and Pinehurst are actually designated as non-attainment of the established standards.
Spenillo explains that the Town is implementing the PM Advance Plan voluntarily to get a hold of the standards before further government regulation would be able to take effect.
A matter of concern is motivating county citizens to conform to these standards. “If you want less government burn as cleanly as you can and use an alternative heat source when it is a red day,” Potter said.
Calkins explained that getting a handle on air quality would take only a few days out of the winter to make the largest difference. “If we can solve those few days out of the year then we can solve the air quality issue here in Lakeview,” he said. Calkins continued affirming that the plan isn’t meant to take away woodstoves, but to burn cleaner and smarter.
Spenillo affirms that the success of the plan depends on the support and cooperation of the community. He said that those who are indifferent about the issue need to remember that health, which air pollution can have adverse effects on, is an environmental issue as well. “If you can protect people’s health you are protecting animal’s health and also the deposition of plant and animals,” Spenillo said.
The trio of governmental representatives is optimistic about the future health of the people and the area that they reside.
“Lakeview and its citizens are the kinds of citizens that roll up their sleeves when they have a problem and solve it,” said Potter. “They don’t shy away from the issues, they tackle them.”
A part of the issue is to burn cleaner on days that have weather inversion. On how to burn cleaner visit EPA.gov/burnwise.