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Lane Regional Air Protection Agency secures an additional $2.7 million in grant funding for Oakridge Air

The Lane Regional Air Protection Agency’s (LRAPA) efforts to improve air quality in Oakridge and Westfir will continue with a $2.7 million Targeted Airshed Grant awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and extending the program until 2026.

Targeted Airshed Grant awards aim to reduce air pollution in areas not meeting air quality standards set by the federal government, referred to as “nonattainment” areas. The Oakridge-Westfir airshed is the only area in Lane County with this designation for violating Particulate Matter (PM) standards set in 2006. The area relies heavily on wood stoves and other solid fuel burning appliances as a source of heat for homes. Wintertime inversions often trap wood stove smoke in the community, exposing residents to harmful PM pollution.

“Great work has already been done by residents and partners in Oakridge and Westfir to solve this problem,” said LRAPA executive director, Steve Dietrich. “This support from the EPA will further efforts underway in the community.” The award supplements a Targeted Airshed Grant awarded in 2019, which founded the “Oakridge Air” program that has operated in the community since. Oakridge Air offers a multitude of air pollution reduction strategies including:

  • Wood stove upgrades to cleaner burning devices at no cost to residents

  • Weatherization upgrades and minor home repair at no cost to residents

  • Ductless heat pump installations at no cost to residents

  • Affordable, seasoned firewood providing subsidized rates to low-income, disabled, and senior residents

  • Cleaner indoor air via air purifiers and filtration systems provided to residents, schools, and other public facilities Increased air quality monitoring in Oakridge

  • Strengthened City of Oakridge compliance and enforcement program

This $2,739,425 in additional funding will allow more homes to enroll in the program and receive valuable upgrades that lower PM emissions. It will also fund new efforts that benefit the area, such as support for the City of Oakridge’s yard waste disposal program; offering chimney sweep vouchers, wood moisture meters, and wood stove thermometers to the community and funding collaborative research between Oakridge Air, the University of Oregon, and Oregon State University to evaluate indoor air quality improvements for residents enrolled in the home heating program. The research will also examine the community’s use of program interventions, protective actions residents take when air quality is poor, and common habits that effect an individual’s exposure to PM emissions.

Collaboration between LRAPA, the City of Oakridge and many community partners including Good Company, the Southern Willamette Forest Collaborative, Inbound LLC, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Orchid Health, and more have led the effort to reduce PM emissions.

Air monitoring in Oakridge demonstrates that the airshed has met the Clean Air Act’s Particulate Matter standards since 2016, allowing LRAPA to submit a request to the EPA to remove the nonattainment designation. “The redesignation request is the cumulation of years of cooperation, progress, and hard work,” said Dietrich. “As more homes undergo interventions, Oakridge and Westfir’s air quality will continue to improve. We’re optimistic the EPA will approve the request in the coming months.”

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