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DEQ adding new, cheaper air quality sensors around state

Two are in Bend, Redmond; air stagnation advisory in effect

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced Thursday its Hillsboro lab staff has developed a new, lower-cost air quality monitor that allows the agency to provide timely particulate pollution information at more locations throughout the state.

Already, eight of the devices, called the SensOR, have been placed at new Air Quality Index sites in Bend, Brookings, Chiloquin, Coos Bay, Florence, Forest Grove, northeast Portland and Redmond.

Coincidentally, the announcement came as prescribed burns and wood stove smoke have led to an air stagnation advisory for Central Oregon, where Prineville’s air quality Thursday morning improved from “unhealthy” to “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” Other parts of the region had “moderate air pollution levels.

"So when we have those kinds of events, the smoke that comes from sources like wood burning accumulates in the community," said Tom Roick, air quality monitoring manager for Oregon DEQ. "It's not being moved out by air movement. That accumulation means that pollution levels are increasing as a result."

Oregonians have become increasingly concerned about air quality, including during the expanding wildfire season.

In 2017, the Oregon Legislature funded an additional 30 monitoring sites for DEQ’s AQI, an interactive website that allows the public to check local conditions.

Over the last year, DEQ lab staff has developed an innovative design, which uses a light sensor to measure particulate matter that is less than 2.5 microns in diameter or approximately one-twenty-fifth the size of a human hair.

The SensOR includes a heated inlet to reduce interference from humidity; regulated air sample flow; automated quality control checks; data acquisition and cellular communication. The scientists spent several months calibrating the SensORs to their more expensive reference instruments, to ensure the AQI is accurate and reliable.

“This is really a testament to the resourcefulness and expertise of our lab team. It is due to their hard work and creativity that we are able to provide the public with more accurate data on the quality of the air in their region,” said Ali Mirzakhalili, air quality administrator for DEQ. “One new SensOR costs approximately $5,000 to $10,000 less than monitors we have purchased in the past. That savings means we can deploy more devices to more areas.”

In July, DEQ obtained a provisional patent from the U.S. Patent Office for the new monitoring tool to protect its continued use. Then in August, the agency secured a trademark through the Oregon Secretary of State for the device name, “SensOR”.

DEQ expects to install more devices over the next few months. The goal is to have 30 total SensORs located statewide within the next year.

There is more information on measuring and reporting on pollutants in Oregon’s air on DEQ’s Air Quality Monitoring webpage .

DEQ SensOR b-roll and additional images available upon request.

Additional Links:
• DEQ: “Location Selection and Rationale for 30 New Parti…
• DEQ: “Wildfire Smoke Trends and Associated Health Risks…
• U.S. EPA: “How Does PM Affect Human Health?”

News / Oregon-Northwest

Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.

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