Lab Matters Fall Winter 2021 - Page 33

Division Services
As a division of DEQ , LEAD is both a laboratory and an information hub . Its analytical services run broad and deep , ranging from inorganic and organic analyses to physical chemistry and sophisticated applications of mass spectrometry . The division also maintains two public-facing databases , provides technical assistance to citizen scientists and oversees extensive water and air monitoring programs as noted above .
Administratively , LEAD organizes its staff in six sections : Administration , Air Monitoring , Water Monitoring , Inorganic Chemistry , Organic Chemistry and Resource Assessment and Technical Support ( RATS ). The latter includes sample receiving , IT systems , data analysis and assessment and other functions that do not fit into another section .
Air Quality
LEAD ’ s air quality monitoring has acquired increased importance and attention after the wildfires of 2020 and 2021 . In 2020 , the LEAD facility was itself affected by poor air quality from local wildfires . Airborne soot clogged the building ’ s air filters , making it impossible to run the exhaust hoods and the HVAC system in the laboratory . There was nothing to do but close the facility and hope for improved air quality the next day . Fortunately , staff were able to return to work the following day after the air filters were changed and the air quality slowly showed improvement .
LEAD collects , publishes and maintains data for Oregon ’ s real-time air quality index ( AQI ). The data are collected by state-designed ‘ SensOR ’ monitors , which are deployed across the state to collect near real-time air quality data . LEAD shares this data with the public online and via a mobile phone app . AQI displays the data as a color-coded map that allows users to quickly determine the status of air quality in their area . Oregon ’ s legislators have responded to the urgent need to improve comprehensive air monitoring across the state by providing funding for an additional 20 monitors to expand coverage in areas where monitoring capacity is currently limited .
Additionally , LEAD monitors for air toxins such as volatile organics and industrial chemicals . The division also collects data on air toxins at nine short- and long-term sites .
LEAD ’ s AQI has taken on a new role , providing information to employers to make decisions about their workplace and working conditions . Recent state legislation requires Oregon employers to monitor the air quality at work sites and provide appropriate worker protections as needed . Employers may opt to set up their own air monitoring equipment rather than relying on state data .
Water Quality
LEAD collects , publishes and maintains data for Oregon ’ s Water Quality Index . Monitoring data is compiled to create a score for each water monitoring site . These scores are displayed on maps color-coded for easy identification . For this index , LEAD monitors 160 river and stream sites every other month . Laboratory staff analyze general water parameters , such as pH and dissolved oxygen , as well as nutrients . Because it has collected data at some sites for as long as 40 years , LEAD is able to analyze long-range trends at these locations . “ You can see when the provisions of the Clean Water Act were implemented . There are marked changes in the data ,” said Pillsbury .
LEAD also shares water monitoring data through reports , which include a survey of water resources , including rivers , streams and groundwater . LEAD monitors pesticides , metals and other emerging and legacy contaminants across the state as part of its Toxics Monitoring Program . In addition , LEAD assists with the state ’ s biennial Integrated Report to EPA , which is required under the Clean Water Act .
LEAD monitors 58 water systems that are considered susceptible to cyanotoxins derived from harmful algal blooms . LEAD tests these water samples using

an ELISA method . But now LEAD scientists have begun working with a qPCR method to detect the gene that produces the cyanotoxin . If successful , this may enable LEAD scientists to make predictive analyses that could limit public exposure to harmful algal blooms . LEAD

A DEQ chemist performs extraction for analysis of PFAS in drinking water : Photo : LEAD
LEAD scientists have begun working with a qPCR method to detect the gene that produces the cyanotoxin . If successful , this will enable LEAD to make predictive analyses that could limit public exposure to harmful algal blooms .
also monitors water quality at public beaches . The state health authority posts recreational advisories , if warranted , based on these analyses .
As in other states , concerns regarding potential health hazards from per- and

polyfluoroalkyl substances ( PFAS ) have prompted action in Oregon . LEAD brought up a method to detect PFAS in drinking water . LEAD scientists collaborated with other DEQ experts and are currently working with the state ’ s public health agency to analyze samples of drinking water from systems identified as vulnerable to PFAS contamination .

Pillsbury arrived in the administrator ’ s office with many plans . In March of 2020 , her agenda changed abruptly with the arrival of the COVID 19 pandemic . Now her staff was the priority . How could she protect them from infection ? Would staff be able to continue operations during the pandemic as they wished to do ? She
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