Wenatchee and East Wenatchee are among 16 communities in Washington that are overburdened by environmental harms.

A new report by the Washington State Department of Ecology say people in those communities are more likely to have negative health outcomes and die about two years earlier.

The report is part of the department's effort to improve air quality in communities that are historically impacted by health, social, and environmental inequalities.

It shows Wenatchee and East Wenatchee have an average of 12 days a year with unhealthy air quality, the most of any of the overburdened communities.

From Department of Ecology

The cities are most affected by fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which is most prevalent from August through October, during wildfire season.

The Wenatchee and East Wenatchee communities have increasingly experienced more frequent wildfire smoke events.

The study says other sources of particulate matter include silvicultural and prescribed burning, agricultural burning, and wood smoke associated with home heating.

Temperature inversions, which keep pollution trapped close to the ground, are a common reason for occasional elevated levels of fine particulate matter in the wintertime in the area.

The study says the Department of Ecology will be examining the sources of pollution in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee in greater detail in future analyses.

It notes that parts of the Wenatchee and East Wenatchee communities have high rates of poverty, asthma, uninsured populations, as well as a high proportion of children under age 18.

The study says those population groups are at greater risk of health impacts from air pollution.

It says Wenatchee and East Wenatchee also includes several schools, hospitals and healthcare clinics, long term care facilities, and migrant farmworker housing, all considered to be locations where occupants may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of pollution exposure.

The study acknowledges that mortality associated with long-term fine particulate matter exposure is just one measure of many ways air quality impacts health in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee.

It says Ecology will strive to include more information on health impacts in future analyses.

In addition, the study identifies two facilities nearby Wenatchee and East Wenatchee for emitting carbon dioxide equivalent, a major contributor to greenhouse gasses.

The study says Pulp and Paper processing at Keyes Fibre Corporation and Food Production at Tree Top's plant together emitted a total of 26,717 Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020 and 27,413 Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2021.

The 16 communities singled out for being overburdened by environmental harms are located on both the east and west side of the Cascade Mountains:

  • Everett
  • George and West Grant County
  • South King County
  • Mattawa
  • Moxee Valley
  • Northeast Puyallup
  • North Seattle and Shoreline
  • South Seattle
  • Spokane and Spokane Valley
  • South and East Tacoma
  • Tri-Cities to Wallula
  • Vancouver
  • Wenatchee and East Wenatchee
  • East Yakima
  • Lower Yakima Valley

Biggest Red Flags About Living in Washington State

Gallery Credit: Reesha Cosby

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