PRINEVILLE, OR -- Prineville residents are being asked to help maintain clean air this winter. Planning Director Phil Stenbeck tells KBND the city has been instructed by the EPA and DEQ to reduce particulates in the air.
Monitors record about 12 days of unhealthy air in Prineville, between November and February, often caused by smoke from wood stove and yard debris burning. "We’ve looked at adding a free yard debris day during the winter-months. We also had an ordinance which allowed burning from 7 a.m. - 12 p.m. from Wednesday through Saturday. So, what we’ve done also is we’ve expanded the days. 'Dilution is the solution to pollution,' as they say. So, instead of that burning going on over four days, it’ll go on over seven." Stenbeck adds, "And then what we did was, we increased the hours during the day and shifted them a little later because what happens is, earlier in the morning it still gets trapped in the inversion. But, about 9 o’clock or so, around 10 o’clock then when you burn it lifts up in the atmosphere and it dilutes and it goes out and doesn’t have the same negative effect."
The city began an effort to help educate residents last month. He says another big contributor to reduced winter air quality is wood stove burning - a common heat source in the region. "And so, we’ve done outreach to several organizations. The Governor’s, what is called Community Regional Solutions Team has gotten involved. So, they’ve helped us reach out to the USDA, NeighborImpact. And the Gas Company has come forward with programs that help provide upgraded heating systems which, in theory, will reduce the amount of particulates that are released during the winter months." Stenbeck says many are already signing up for a program that provides financial assistance to those willing to trade out wood stoves for more efficient heating. City officials hope some homeowners will be able to upgrade heating systems by October, prior to cooler air moving into the area.