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Lane County and city governments provide 7 percent of LRAPA's $1.9 million budget, and every few years one of them proposes saving money by abolishing the agency and turning air-quality responsibilities over to the DEQ.
"The program aims to improve air quality in Lane County, as well as jump start the industry infrastructure to tackle the problem of truck idling and diesel exhaust emissions while reducing fuel consumption," said Sharon Banks, LRAPA's director of administration and planning.
The directors of LRAPA also raised fees charged for slash burning on land not regulated by the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Eugene and Florence have year-round bans on debris burning, according to LRAPA. Springfield only allows open burning during burn season on properties larger than a half acre.
LRAPA officials take into account the size of the fire, the burning history of the person who lit it and other factors.
Between 1999 and last year, the worst fine-particulate matter readings recorded on a given day averaged 21-60 micrgrams per cubic meter at LRAPA's south Eugene monitoring station.
Merlyn Hough, the director of LRAPA, said Tuesday that the fine particles hanging in the air throughout Lane County can be inhaled deep into the lungs and even enter into the blood stream more easily than coarse particulate matter, such as dust from field plowing.
"At no time may the open burning of railroad ties be conducted," LRAPA compliance officer John Morrissey wrote in a notice of civil penalty he signed in early May.
"The average residential open burning fine runs about $300, depending upon the size of the fire and materials being burned," said Jo Niehaus, LRAPA spokeswoman.
"People, especially those with pre-existing health issues, may experience coughing, chest pain, throat irritation and reduced lung function," LRAPA spokeswoman Jo Niehaus said.
She said LRAPA sent out a field officer to investigate, but the agency can't take any action because the source of the smoke is outside its jurisdiction.
LRAPA Director Merlyn Hough said one problem with the American Lung Association's annual report is that it takes data from the troubled Oakridge airshed, which covers a remote area with only 1 percent of Lane County's population, and lets those numbers significantly shape the county's overall pollution rating.
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