Department of Environmental Quality

​The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality strives to be a full partner in the effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. We are taking steps to ensure the safety of our staff and the public. Here are some of the changes we are making. Please check this site regularly for updates.

Visit Governor Brown’s Covid-19 Resources for Oregonians website for updates on the statewide response.

DEQ is committed to continuing to protect the environment, maintain compliance, and sustain a consistent statewide enforcement program. However, DEQ recognizes that measures to protect public health and minimize economic disruptions related to the COVID-19 outbreak may temporarily impact your ability to comply with DEQ requirements. DEQ is aware that many asbestos certification classes have been recently canceled due to COVID-19. A temporary rule was passed allowing holders of certain DEQ licenses and certifications to obtain their renewal by either 60 days after the Oregon State of Emergency is lifted, or by October 15, 2020, whichever date is earlier. Please make best efforts to recertify workers and supervisors as soon as possible when the training is available again. DEQ is committed to exercising reasonable enforcement discretion during the COVID-19 emergency.


DEQ must balance its vital obligation to enforce the law and protect the environment with a consideration of the dramatic disruptions to public health and the economy caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. DEQ strives to be a full partner in the global effort to stop the spread of the virus and recognizes that the outbreak may affect some regulated entities’ ability to comply with certain DEQ requirements in rules, permit conditions, and orders. Some entities may experience staff shortages, service provider interruptions, or other pandemic-related disruptions.

All applicable DEQ requirements remain in effect.

However, DEQ will continue to exercise reasonable enforcement discretion within its authority in making decisions regarding violations that occurred on or after March 16, 2020, caused by pandemic-related disruptions.

DEQ offers the following guidance in an effort to foster a shared understanding of priorities during this time of emergency. This guidance does not serve as authorization of any kind to violate any applicable requirement of law, including statute, rule, permit condition, order, or other obligation.

Priorities

DEQ expects permit holders, licensees, and certified persons or companies to make every effort to comply with their environmental compliance obligations. DEQ expects all regulated entities do everything possible to maintain the safe and environmentally protective operation of their facilities and/or operations. Priorities for operation include:

  • Fully operate all installed pollution control equipment and treatment measures to reduce pollution.
  •  Implement best management practices.
  •  Assure proper facility operation or delivery of service.
  •  Monitor, test, and report to demonstrate compliance with specific pollutant limits in the permit, license, or certification; including effluent limits, emission limits, and disposal volumes.
  •  Monitor, test, and report to demonstrate compliance with all other requirements.

If you need assistance from DEQ, please contact your facility’s permit writer or primary DEQ contact for more information.

Documentation

DEQ requests that regulated entities document any pandemic-related disruptions to their operations and explain how these disruptions have caused non-compliance. DEQ will use this documentation in making enforcement-related decisions when violations occur. The documentation should:

  • Identify the specific nature and dates of the noncompliance.
  • Identify the specific DEQ order, regulation, permit, or other requirement that is affected by the COVID-19 disruption.
  • Provide specific information about how COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance (for example, specific staffing and service shortages, availability of pollution control equipment, disposal schedules, dates of interruption, etc.).
  • Describe the decisions and actions taken in response, including best efforts to comply and steps taken to come into compliance at the earliest opportunity.


DEQ may request additional information and documentation.

Signatures

Due to COVID and social distancing, it may not be possible for a regulated entity to provide handwritten signatures on reports, submittals, and other documents to be submitted to DEQ. All efforts should be made to provide handwritten signatures. When a signature cannot be obtained due to COVID and social distancing, regulated entities should submit the report with an electronic signature, or unsigned, including a description of why a handwritten signature could not be obtained due to COVID. Entities should use all best efforts to provide a handwritten signature as soon as possible to remedy.

 

NOTE: Wastewater Testing Laboratories

Wastewater laboratories are not required to be certified in Oregon. However, many of the certified drinking water laboratories may also provide wastewater testing services. The Oregon Health Authority provides a searchable index of all certified drinking water laboratories within Oregon. This link is provided for informational purposes only. DEQ is not able at this time to keep an up to date list of all operational laboratories and their services. Wastewater facilities may utilize laboratories not contained on this list.
 

NOTE: NPDES Non-Reporting

Guided by EPA's Temporary Advisory for NPDES Reporting in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic, DEQ is implementing procedures for permittees to document instances of non-reporting due to COVID-19 disruptions. DEQ expects NPDES permittees to make good faith efforts to comply with all permit requirements. If permit reporting obligations cannot be met, permittees should take all possible steps to return to compliance as soon as possible. Additionally, permittees should document and report any instances of COVID-19-related noncompliance, including the nature and dates of the noncompliance, how COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance, and the decisions and actions taken in response.

The following are scenarios that warrant special reporting:

  • Missing Data – A new no data indicator (NODI) code—NODI Code Z - COVID-19—is available in NetDMR to use for missing data when monitoring and sampling were interrupted or sample analysis was not available due to COVID-19 disruptions. When NODI Code Z is used in a DMR, Permittees should add "COVID-19" to the comments field and attach a narrative description of the specific circumstances that caused sampling, monitoring, or reporting to be interrupted.
  • Interruption of Electronic Reporting – If permittees are unable to report electronically, permittees should contact the DEQ Compliance Officer to discuss options for a temporary waiver from electronic reporting and a timeline for resuming NetDMR submissions.
  • Interruption of Reporting – If permittees are unable to report, permittees should contact the DEQ Compliance Officer to discuss a timeline for resuming reporting, including late submission of missing reports.

In order to follow the Governor’s and health officials' recommendations of limiting statewide travel, the laboratory will postpone statewide non-essential sampling operations (air and water quality) until April 30, 2020.. This currently applies to overnight sampling trips for air and water quality.


The laboratory remains open. Currently, we will continue to receive samples collected locally or on day trips. We are also working with our partner collectors statewide to determine feasibility of receiving remotely collected samples. Our work is important to the state and its citizens. We will do our best to continue this work safely and protect our employees and their families.

Oregon DEQ offers in-person services by appointment only starting March 23 to mitigate spread of COVID-19

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will temporarily offer in-person public services by appointment only starting Monday, March 23, in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect employees and the public. DEQ's administrative offices and online functions remain open.

DEQ staff can be reached by email and phone during regular business hours, but those seeking to meet directly with DEQ staff need to call first and arrange for an appointment. Find staff contact info in DEQ's directory.

Note: The appointment-only policy does not apply to vehicle inspection stations, which are temporarily closed.

DEQ is committed to providing important services to Oregonians while reducing the risk of exposure for employees and the public. DEQ will provide locked drop boxes so members of the public can drop off payments, applications and other important documents. DEQ will also continue receiving mail deliveries.

Resources:

Read news release online here.



In response to the Covid-19 virus, DEQ has changed many of its day-to-day work practices to reduce risk to staff and the public while still providing vital services to stakeholders. Some of these changes include telecommuting, curtailing non-essential travel and inspections, and limiting access to DEQ offices to appointment only.  The DEQ Emergency Response Programs, which responds to oil and chemical spills, remains ready to respond to major incidents to protect Oregonians and the environment.  

Emergency Response staff ordinarily handles many spills remotely and will continue to do so, partnering with other agencies and response contractors. These spills are often 50-150 gallons of diesel on the road shoulder due to a semi-truck crash. If the capacity of the response community is hampered by sick or overwhelmed contractors, DEQ will prioritize those spills requiring immediate attention over those that can wait, based on the proximity of creeks and rivers or other sensitive environments. Oregon's spill rules require a complete cleanup of all spills and so even if a spill doesn't get immediately cleaned up, the responsible party will be required to complete the cleanup when resources become available. 

In the event of a large spill from a tanker truck or commercial vessel, DEQ will respond safely and immediately. Field practices will change to incorporate social distancing for the response contractors and agency personnel, but those changes will not interfere with protecting Oregon's citizens and environment from oil and chemical spills.

​DEQ is committed to continuing to protect the environment, maintain compliance, and sustain a consistent statewide enforcement program. However, DEQ recognizes that measures to protect public health and minimize economic disruptions related to the COVID-19 outbreak may temporarily impact your ability to comply with DEQ requirements. DEQ is aware that EPA Method 9 certification classes have been recently canceled due to COVID-19. Please continue to have certified observers or observers certified within the last 12 months perform the Method 9 visible emission readings. In addition, please make best efforts to recertify observers as soon as possible when the training is available again. You must notify DEQ within 10 calendar days when observers are recertified.  DEQ expects that all sources continue to meet applicable emission limits.  DEQ is committed to exercising reasonable enforcement discretion during the COVID-19 emergency. For those operating under Title V permits, be sure to mark “I” within semiannual compliance certifications when an uncertified observer performs a Method 9.

DEQ will continue to conduct inspections that are necessary to prevent immediate harm to public health or the environment, and will take all necessary precautions to protect employees and the public. DEQ may delay or suspend inspections of facilities or activities that do not present an immediate risk to public health or the environment.

The following inspections are suspended until at least April 14:
  • Hospitals
  • Wastewater treatment facilities
  • Correctional facilities
  • Crematoriums
  • Industrial pretreatment systems, if domestic waste is included or if in close proximity to wastewater lagoon
  • Septic systems, if inspector would be exposed to raw sewage
  • Other facilities that do not present an immediate risk to public health or the environment.
As of April 3, 2020, DEQ, along with its partners Oregon Department of Forestry, Office of the State Fire Marshal, Oregon Department of Agriculture  and Oregon Health Authority, is asking people to refrain from all outdoor burning activities until further notice.    

Fire is a necessary tool used by industrial forest landowners, farmers, small woodland owners, rural residents and others to manage lands. However, there are several ways smoke from fires during the COVID-19 pandemic may negatively affect the public and first responders:
    1. While some people with COVID-19 are hospitalized, most patients recover at home, where smoke from a nearby outdoor burn could worsen their condition.
    2. Exposure to smoke can increase the risk of contracting infectious respiratory disease, such as COVID-19, increase the severity of existing respiratory infections and worsen underlying chronic respiratory conditions.
    3. Smoke may cause symptoms in some people that may cause them to seek medical care at a time when health resources are already stretched thin.
    4. There is a severe shortage of personal protective equipment used to reduce smoke exposure at this time.
    5. Outdoor burning can escape at a time when emergency services are operating at a reduced capacity and have limited resources to respond to out-of-control burns
State agencies are asking people to weigh the possible negative effects on the wider community before choosing to burn.

This is a voluntary action. Many local jurisdictions have outdoor burn regulations in place. It is best to first check with the local fire agency to see if outdoor burning is currently allowed in your area. For more information, please view the press release.   

For information on other options, go to Alternatives to Outdoor Burning.

Governor Brown has issued an executive order requiring residents to stay home except for essential needs. DEQ will work to set up web or telephone meetings as needed during this time.

Oregon has not taken statewide action to suspend the plastic bag ban, also known as HB2509, but due to supply chain concerns, grocery stores might run out of paper bags and have to use plastic bags.
 
Municipalities and local governments are the administers of the law and can make decisions about enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are encouraging local governments to not penalize grocers for using plastic bags.  We also encourage the public to keep using reusable bags if they have them.
 
Here are some helpful resources for consumers:
 

The Department of Environmental Quality, which closed its vehicle inspection stations on March 17, has reopened them as counties moved into Phase 1. Please note the following schedules:

  • Medford-Ashland station
    • Hours:
      • Mondays: 7:30 a.m.* - 5:30 p.m.
      • Tuesdays -Thursdays: 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 a.m.
      • Fridays: 7:30 a.m.* - 5:30 p.m.
  • Portland-Metro: Clackamas, Gresham, Northeast Portland, Sherwood and Sunset/Hillsboro stations
    • Hours:
      • Tuesdays: 7:30 a.m.* - 5:30 p.m.
      • Wednesdays: 8:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.
      • Thursdays: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
      • Fridays: 7:30 a.m.* - 5:30 p.m.
      • Saturdays: 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Portland-Metro: Scappoose station
    • Hours:
      • Fridays: 7:30 a.m.* - 5:30 p.m.
      • Saturdays: 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

*Station is temporarily opening one hour early on these days to accommodate heavy traffic.

As of Wednesday, July 1, 2020, customers interacting with vehicle inspection staff at all stations must wear face coverings and maintain six feet of physical distance in accordance with state requirements.

Motorists have three testing options:

  • Visit an open vehicle inspection station. With counties now reopening, DEQ has been communicating with state health and safety officials on timing and safety precautions, and stations have modified plans in alignment with new health and physical distancing guidelines. This will increase time spent on each transaction. The agency requests that anyone interacting with vehicle inspection staff follow COVID-19 state guidelines, including wearing face masks and maintaining the recommended six feet of physical distance during their visits. 
    Go to DEQ's Vehicle Inspection home page to check hours. Motorists should expect long lines and extended wait times. Please do not block other businesses or impede traffic. All traffic and roadway rules apply.
  •  Visit a participating DEQ Too™ station. DEQ Too is a test method that allows private business locations motorists already frequent, such as gas stations, car washes, oil change shops, repair service centers, etc. to complete vehicle emissions tests.
  • Purchase a test certificate. VIP customers may go to https://www.deqtoo.org/Search/Terms to purchase test certificates, with the understanding that they are required to return to get their vehicles inspected any time between the stations' re-opening and Dec. 31, 2020. This new option is available to most vehicles owners with registrations expiring from Feb. 15, 2020 through July 15, 2020.

On March 20, 2020, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced a partnership with Oregon law enforcement agencies to exercise discretion in the enforcement of driver's licenses, vehicle registrations and trip permits that expire during the COVID-19 emergency stay-at-home orders declared by Governor Brown. That citation moratorium has been extended through Oct. 1, 2020

DEQ's goal is to protect the health and safety of our staff and customers. For specific questions concerning: