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Public health looking at county-sponsored air filters

Herald and News - 8/31/2017

Klamath County Public Health has floated the idea of purchasing air filters to loan to at-risk residents in light of dangerous levels of smoke blowing in from wildfires.

Public Health Director Courtney Vanbragt told county commissioners Wednesday she had met with with residents in Rocky Point, near the North Pelican fire, and learned of the need for filters among many senior citizens.

Vanbragt said she was interested in providing free-standing HEPA filters able to clean particulate matter from the air of a room or building. She said some of the residents she met with did not have the means to seek out and purchase a filter on their own.

“I think it’s a relatively minimal expense for some of the situations these people are in,” said Vanbragt.

Air quality getting worse

Air quality in the Klamath Basin has wavered between moderate and unhealthy during recent weeks due to a multitude of wildfires burning throughout Oregon and Northern California. On Wednesday, authorities said air quality may become very unhealthy by Thursday morning, meaning outdoor activity is unsafe for all individuals and very unsafe for vulnerable persons, such as the elderly.

Vanbragt said the HEPA filters she had in mind could cost between $50 and $80 per unit. She wanted to purchase 20 to launch a pilot program and determine if air filters were a viable long-term investment.

Vanbragt added she does not have funding in her department’s budget for such a purchase and she would have to look at where they could reduce spending to make up the difference. She said the emergency preparedness fund would be a likely source for the purchase of air filters.

“I would have to go back to the drawing board,” she said.

No decisions yet

Commissioners took no action regarding the proposal. They said they did not object to the idea but would need more information including a policy for managing filter lending and maintenance before moving forward.

Commissioner Derrick DeGroot said be sees the smoke entering the Basin as a result of poor forest management practices resulting in so many wildfires. While he said it may not be practical to do so, he wanted to hold someone financially accountable for the cost of health problems experiences by county residents due to the smoke.

 
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