Protecting Oregon's Environment
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Oregon DEQ History Timeline

This timeline highlights key environmental milestones for Oregon beginning in 1889 and chronicles DEQ's history of environmental challenges and successes since its formation in 1969. See our series of success stories too.  

Timeline index by decade:

1889 Cows in field and stream

Oregon Institutes First Environmental Law

Oregon enacts a state law prohibiting pollution of waters used for domestic or livestock purposes.
1926 -1936

Water Pollution Degrades the Environment

First studies completed on water pollution in the Willamette River. Pollution was so bad in the Willamette that workers would not work on riverside construction projects and fish could not survive. Cities and industries were discharging untreated sewage. (Learn about DEQ's Water Quality programs.)
1938 pipe with effluent flowing into stream

Oregon State Sanitary Authority Established

Oregon’s first agency focusing on the environment is established: the Oregon State Sanitary Authority. Later, it is charged with cleaning up pollution in the Willamette River, with a focus on discharges from industrial and municipal facilities (called “point sources”).
1944 wastewater plant building

Wastewater Treatment Begins

The state begins research and treatment of polluted wastewater, especially in the Willamette River. Construction begins on sewage treatment plants like the one pictured here in Milwaukie.
1951 wigwam burning with smoke

First Statewide Air Pollution Laws Created

The days of “wigwam” burning are numbered as the State Air Pollution Authority is created, establishing the first statewide air pollution control laws. Eight years later the State Air Pollution Authority merges with the Sanitary Authority. (Learn more about DEQ's Air Quality programs.)
1963 air quality monitoring equipment

Air Quality Monitoring Starts with Clean Air Act

The federal Clean Air Act is passed by Congress, establishing funding for the study and cleanup of air pollution and allowing states like Oregon to purchase and operate air quality monitoring equipment. (Find out more about DEQ's Air Quality Monitoring.)
1964-1969 pile of tires on ground

Waste Management Needs Grow

There is no simple remedy as various “dumps” in Central Oregon are investigated and found to be causing air and water quality pollution. Problems point to the need for more resources to manage Oregon’s waste. (Learn more about DEQ's Land Quality programs.)
1969 original DEQ logo

Oregon DEQ Formed

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is established, replacing the Sanitary Authority under the Board of Health. Oregon DEQ is charged with cleaning up and protecting the state’s water, land and air. (Learn more about Oregon DEQ.)
1969 Burning field

Field Burning Pollution Results in ‘Black Tuesday’

Tragedy strikes in August when smoke from field burning shrouds Eugene, resulting in a pedestrian killed by a driver who couldn’t see him crossing the street and a 12-car collision on Interstate 5. Gov. Tom McCall calls an emergency meeting of the Environmental Quality Commission to address the issue. Today, field burning in Oregon is closely regulated. (Find out more about burning and smoke management.)
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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97232
Phone: 503-229-5696 or toll free in Oregon 1-800-452-4011
Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service: 1-800-735-2900  FAX: 503-229-6124

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a regulatory agency authorized to protect Oregon's environment by
the State of Oregon and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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