Pittsburgh has become a popular up and coming city over the last few years that has explored sustainable areas within its business sector and community. However, there are still environmental issues that the city faces as a whole. Although the city consistently ranks as one of the top up and coming cities in the country, it ranks as one of the most polluted cities in the country as well. In a State of the Air report conducted in 2016, Pittsburgh was 8th worst in America for year-round fine particle pollution, another name for soot. The cities asthma rates are well beyond the national average and tend to effect children the most.
The issue of air pollution doesn’t just affect the city of Pittsburgh, but Allegheny County as a whole is suffering from this climate crisis. Clairton Coke Works, Edgar Thomson Steel Works and Irvin plant are three facilities that produce steel but also contribute to a large amount of pollution. In 2005, Clairton and Glassport, another town in Allegheny County, were top five in the country in highest rates of cancer because of air pollution. Although the issue has improved over the years, air pollution is still a major focus of the Allegheny Health Department.
There has been a large decrease in steel mills in the city over the years, but McConway and Torley is still in operation, and even worse is located in one of the city’s most densely populated neighborhoods. The 150-year-old steel foundry does not follow proper emission limits, which results in a large amount of pollutants being emitted into the surrounding areas. Because of a grandfather-exemption, McConway and Torley do not have strict regulations; which does not hold them accountable for the pollution caused. In 2015 the Allegheny Health Department introduced a permit to have the facility reduce production by about 77%.
One of the biggest contributors to the pollution in Pittsburgh was the Shenango Coke Works. The facility emitted some of the most toxic fumes, coke, which is a very refined form of coal in order to produce steel. After meeting with the Allegheny County Clean Air Now group to establish what should be done about the health risk Shenango has caused, the EPA became more aware of the facility and had to undergo constant inspections to make sure requirements were being met. In 2016 Shenango finally stopped all steel production because of public scrutiny they were receiving from outside sources like the EPA and Allegheny Health Department.
Although there are plants shutting down and reducing the amount of air pollution in the city, there are still plants that are operating that pose a serious environmental and health risk. Not only Pittsburgh, but other cities like Detroit, MI have been known to have industrial manufacturing plants have to be aware of this issue in order to find a solution. In order for this problem to be solved, the public has to be aware and educated on the matter, and learn how they are able to cut down on their personal pollution and not be part of the problem. Once people learn how to reduce the amount of pollution, they should alert the health department of any issues of poor air quality or large amounts of air pollution.
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I have always had allergies and asthma, but it was controlled until I moved to Pittsburgh. Air quality is a serious concern, and even though we may have bright blue skies, there’s a lot of pollution lingering from the industrial plants. Another issue is that old homes and apartments in Pittsburgh do not have adequate ventilation and air filtering, so they have terrible indoor air quality that moves in from the outdoor pollution!
A good future post might be to offer suggestions for improving indoor quality and help navigating whether we should open windows, close them, play outside, inside, etc.