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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Gov. Jay Inslee visits air quality monitoring site at Mountain View High School

It was the first stop during Inlee’s Clark County visit on Wednesday

By Dylan Jefferies, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 1, 2024, 3:34pm
6 Photos
Gov. Jay Inslee, from left, talks with junior and environmental club president Isaac Segal, 17, as he stops by with Department of Ecology staff to hear about air quality monitoring being conducted at a station at Mountain View High School on Wednesday morning. The site is owned and operated by the Department of Ecology in partnership with the school and the Southwest Clean Air Agency.
Gov. Jay Inslee, from left, talks with junior and environmental club president Isaac Segal, 17, as he stops by with Department of Ecology staff to hear about air quality monitoring being conducted at a station at Mountain View High School on Wednesday morning. The site is owned and operated by the Department of Ecology in partnership with the school and the Southwest Clean Air Agency. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Students in the Mountain View High School environmental club are passionate about reducing waste and keeping the air clean.

This year, the group has stayed busy planting trees in east Vancouver and establishing a milk-carton recycling program.

“We work on a lot of projects on campus as well as in the community,” said Isaac Segal, 17, a junior who serves as the club’s president.

On Wednesday morning, some members of the Environmental Club learned more about a Washington State Department of Ecology air quality monitoring site at Mountain View. They were joined by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who was visiting Clark County.

The air quality monitoring site, owned and operated by Ecology in partnership with the school and the Southwest Clean Air Agency, is north of the high school in a small, nondescript building between the football and soccer fields.

“I’m glad we’re doing this for your generation, because your generation is going to be breathing this stuff for decades,” Inslee said addressing students who came to learn more about the site. “We’d like to protect the Columbia River so it’s not too hot to fish, and we’d like to keep snow on Mount Rainier so that when you’re my age there’s still glaciers. I hope that we can achieve that, because you deserve it.”

Ecology staff said the site is now able to measure particulate matter in the air, in addition to ozone pollution levels, thanks to funding from the Climate Commitment Act. This helps Ecology to provide more accurate information about air quality in real time.

This data is key to developing strategies to reduce pollution in places identified has having poor air quality, staff said.

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A large portion of Vancouver has been identified in a state report as an overburdened community, that is, highly impacted by air pollution. Under the Climate Commitment Act, the state is allocating $2.85 million every two years to expand air monitoring across 16 such communities in Washington, ensuring residents have air-quality data.

The Climate Commitment Act also invests $10 million in grants to reduce air pollution in these communities, along with an additional $10 million for a higher-resolution, air quality monitoring project.

Residents in overburdened communities die an average of 2.4 years earlier than those in the rest of the state, and are twice as likely to have lung and heart disease, according to the report.

The Mountain View High School air quality monitoring site is one of two in Vancouver. The other site is at Northeast 84th Avenue.

“This has been a great tool for us to better understand the pollution that is happening in our communities,” said Rob Dengel of Ecology’s Air Quality Program. “The other great part of the Climate Commitment Act is it also provides us the resources and tools to work with communities and our partners to then act on that information effectively.”

Ecology plans to establish at least five more monitoring sites in Vancouver in the next year in partnership with the Southwest Clean Air Agency.

Inslee called the air quality monitoring site “lifesaving.”

“We want our kids to be able to breathe,” he said. “We’ve had an epidemic of asthma. We’ve had premature deaths caused by small particulate matter. And now, the Department of Ecology is able to really monitor where the concentrations are of this very, very dangerous pollution so we can act on it.”

He said that additional monitoring sites are needed throughout the state, but that he is confident that the Climate Commitment Act will provide the necessary resources to continually improve air quality monitoring statewide.

“It’s not exciting like a fire engine, but it can help us save lives,” Inslee said. “The Climate Commitment Act is doing that by allowing us to monitor this pollution so that we can act against it.”

After the tour, Mountain View student Segal said he is excited to visit the site again next month with his environmental science class to learn more about the inner workings of the equipment.

“It won’t be much of a field trip, because it’s right here,” he said.

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