Portland, Multnomah Co. and PSU partner on air quality research - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland, Multnomah Co. and PSU partner on air quality research

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Portland, Multnomah County and Portland State University announced a new partnership Wednesday to conduct extensive research into the area’s air quality and how it is being affected by different toxins in the area.

The research will be funded by PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions, the city and the county, with PSU paying half of the $125,000 cost and Portland and Multnomah County splitting the remaining cost.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said Portland residents did not expect the recent air quality concerns, and thanked the county for holding state officials accountable monitoring and regulating the air quality.

“We as Portlanders believe we live in a green sustainable, clean place. So it has been very disturbing, really fearful, for people to learn that there is this threat to public health that comes from air pollution,” he said. “It is important that we as public officials rise to that challenge and give people facts and give people the level of regulation that is appropriate and that we all deserve.”

PSU environmental studies professor Linda George will lead the effort, along with other members of the faculty and PSU students.

"It's very gratifying to have the opportunity to provide that information to the public so they can make decisions about where they live, how they want to engage in the political process," said George.

The research plan includes setting up six different testing sites across the metro area and using X-ray fluorescence to test for heavy metals.

City officials said they hope the research can allow them to make more informed decisions on air quality issues.

“The quality of the air we breathe is critical for all Portlanders,” City Commissioner Steve Novick said in a release. “PSU’s research will provide with the kind of real-time neighborhood-level analysis that is important for policymakers to consider as we move forward with future decisions.”

Novick also noted during the news conference that while many have been surprised by the air quality concerns following the February announcement of heavy metals being present around different Portland glass companies, others have been raising concerns for much longer about diesel exposures from freight yards and highways.

Northwest Portland resident Mary Peveto, who leads Neighbors for Clean Air, said the study is exciting.

"We're finally putting the science and research and the evidence based work into the interest of rally understand community impacts and how we can mitigate that," she said.

Officials said this new effort was not designed to conflict with the testing done by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, instead noting that the DEQ had more state-wide responsibilities and guidelines, as well as a limited scope and budget.

Institute for Sustainable Solutions Director Robert Liberty said that while this research was specifically targeted on the Portland metro, the group was open to more partners, noting that, “we are breathing each other’s air, and sharing the pollution that is generated here.” 

The first results of the research is expected to be available early in 2017.

For more information on the project, visit PDX.edu.

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