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November 19, 2017
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Environmental Public Health

History

The Rogue Valley is an excellent example of an area that turned its air from hazardous to healthy. Historically, the air quality in the Rogue Valley has suffered largely because of winter temperature inversions trapping particulate matter and other pollutants from wood smoke, orchard smudge pots, industry, and automobiles, among other sources, near the valley floor.

Efforts began in the 1970s to improve air quality by upgrading home insulation, and assisting low-income homes in converting from woodstoves to cleaner methods of heating. Emission control measures for pollution industries were also implemented in this decade. Alternatives to smudge pots, such as wind machines and overhead sprinklers, were tested in the Rogue Valley in the early 1970s.

In the 1980s cities began adopting air quality ordinances addressing wood burning and providing education about clean burning. Clean-burning stoves were introduced and promoted throughout the valley. Wood stove replacement continued.

Although violating particulate standards for years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially declared the Rogue Valley as “non-attainment” for PM10 in 1990. More woodstove replacements occurred throughout the 1990s, and local air pollution ordinances were strengthened. The installation of non-certified stoves was banned.  As a result, 1991 marked the last year that the Rogue Valley violated particulate matter standards.  The Rogue Valley has reached "attainment" status for PM10 through the EPA, and meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for PM2.5. The valley is also meeting attainment with ozone and carbon monoxide, which have historically been a problem.

Through a grant from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Jackson County works with the cities, fire districts and other partners in the Rogue Valley and within the county to provide education and information to citizens on safe and healthy burning practices. The goal is to reduce smoke pollution from homes and open burning during periods of air stagnation where smoke may build up to unhealthy levels.

Many difficulties and challenges have been met and overcome since the smoke-filled days of old. Jackson County residents now have something to show for their efforts and can be proud of cleaner air!