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The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) Air Quality Program recently announced its intent to issue an operating permit for the McConway and Torley steel foundry located on 48th street in Lawrenceville. This facility is a significant local source of air pollution that has prompted numerous odor and noise complaints from Lawrenceville residents. ACHD’s air permitting process provides an opportunity to reduce emissions from the McConway & Torley facility and improve air quality in Lawrenceville.

 

On March 16, GASP will hold a public meeting to discuss air quality in Lawrenceville and how members of the public can participate in the permit development process. Learn more about the permit and what you can do by attending this community meeting.

 

DATE: Monday, March 16th
TIME: 6-8 p.m.
LOCATION: Stephen Foster Community Center, 286 Main Street, Lawrenceville, PA 15201

 

Light refreshments will be served.
Please RSVP to jamin@gasp-pgh.org or 412-924-0604

 

by Jonathan Keane
NewScientist
February 19, 2015

 

And breathe… High-definition cameras are letting residents monitor the air pollution in their cities online, and in real time.

 

The Breathe Project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, worked with Carnegie Mellon University to create the Breathe Cam – four high-resolution cameras that capture haze and air pollution activity, along with software that visualises the data online. Up and running since December across Pittsburgh, the idea is that residents equipped with accurate information can lobby more effectively for companies and councils to stick to environmental guidelines.

 

Developed by the CREATE Lab at CMU’s Robotics Institute, the Breathe Cam snaps expansive panoramas of the city 24/7, which are available on the Breathe website alongside data taken from sensors on humidity, temperature and wind speed.

 

Randy Sargent, senior systems scientist at the Robotics Institute, says that the cameras have five times the resolutionof 4K television. To use the Breathe system, a resident logs on to one of the cameras, where they can see a view of the city as well as archived footage going back one year. They can see any haze over the cityand display data on fine particles, temperature, sulphur dioxide levels, humidity and wind direction captured by six sensors across the city to let users see what might be causing it.

 

Smoke-stack action

Users can focus on different parts of the city with the Change Detection tool. Selecting one aspect of the view, such as plumes of smoke from a stack, brings up data on pollution levels in that area over previous months, showing when the stack is most active.

The cameras and sensors cover about 200 square kilometres of the city and surrounding areas. Users can share the images and data on social media and can take snapshots of the air quality to send to city officials.

 

The cameras, and similar ones such as Camnet in Boston and Hazecam in Cleveland, Ohio, allow residents to “see” the pollution in a way they couldn’t before, says Ben Barratt at King’s College London. “The reason that the smog in Beijing is so notorious is people can see the pollution,” he adds.

 

Monitor your area

Other cities and groups have also deployed systems to track and visualise smog and haze, using maps or videos. They include London Air, developed at King’s, and the Dublin Dashboard in Ireland’s capital. Amsterdam’s Smart City initiative is attempting to increase civic involvement by encouraging residents themselves to install its air-quality sensors where they live.

Response to the cameras has been positive so far, says Johnson. “It’s a tool that is giving people the ability to learn about air quality in Pittsburgh in a way that they never had access to,” he says.

 

Local groups in Pennsylvania are now deploying their own camera systems. For example, residents in Allegheny County are using the software developed by Sargent and his team to specifically monitor the local Shenango coke plant and ensure it is complying with regulations.

Sargent says that faster broadband speeds and improvements in camera technology have helped. “Five years ago the computing power and the storage would have been prohibitively expensive,” he says.

 

Roy Harrison at the University of Birmingham, UK, welcomes these sorts of awareness-raising systems in cities. “Air pollution is a major public health issue which ranks highly amongst the avoidable causes of death in both the developed and less-developed world,” he says, “so no hype is necessary, just the facts.”

 

 

Margaret J Krauss
City Design Editor
NEXTPittsburgh
February 12, 2015

 

Mapping-NextPittsburgh

 

For two years Albert A. Presto measured air pollution at 70 sites throughout the county. An assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, Presto specifically looked at levels of particulate matter otherwise known as PM2.5. Taking annual averages, the data was layered on top of a Google Earth image to illustrate varying concentrations.

 

PM2.5 was mapped while ozone was measured but not mapped. At a forum last night, Presto told the crowd that while ozone is bad, it’s secondary and less variable while greater understanding of PM is crucial.

 

“The end health effect of PM is that you die,” he said.

 

Dr. Deborah Gentile, Director of Research of the Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology for West Penn Allegheny Health System, discussed the link between air pollution and asthma.

 

“It is basically an epidemic in the region,” she said. “It’s not 100 percent cause and effect, but there is an association.”

 

Gentile said that in some communities the prevalence of asthma, almost 3o percent, is more than double that of the national rate. She added that minorities and those of lower socioeconomic standing are disproportionately affected.

 

Presto and Gentile presented to a standing-room-only crowd in the basement of Shadyside’s First Unitarian Church last evening. Presto pulled up a map of the United States that highlighted in blue the counties not meeting the standard for PM2.5 levels. The Pittsburgh region is a stark cluster in a mostly clear map.

 

“All of the significant epidemiological relationships are between PM and mortality,” said Presto. “When the EPA calculates health benefits from decreasing air pollution, 95 percent of that is PM.”

 

A map of black carbon pollution, a component of PM2.5, shows deep red hues in low-lying areas in Pittsburgh such as the river valleys, along the highways and near industrial operations. With pollution, it’s important to differentiate between what can be controlled and what can’t, said Presto, citing exhaust that wafts to Pittsburgh from other places.

 

“The next step is to start looking at sources, not just pollutant concentrations because you don’t regulate pollution, you regulate sources.”

 

PennEnvironment, the citizen-based advocacy group that organized the forum, voiced concerns about specific threats to air quality such as the Shenango Coke Works and the Clairton Coke Works.

 

Ted Popovich of Allegheny County Clean Air Now and Stephen Riccardi of PennEnvironment also spoke at the forum, urging attendees to attend other meetings and make calls to elected officials to demonstrate the community’s desire for improved air quality.

 

Forum attendees said their goal is to make policy makers and the Allegheny Health Department pay attention.

 

“I don’t think the health department is actually taking air quality complaints seriously,” said Edgewood resident Christopher Harper. “By getting more people involved, hopefully that will get back to the health department.”

 

Presto said his maps will be available to the public soon.

 

By David Templeton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

BlackCarbon-PG

 

When it comes to the particulate matter, PM2.5, Pittsburgh is the sixth most polluted city in the United States and the most polluted city east of California, the American Lung Association says.

 

But the big question has been how these pollution levels of particulate matter, or PM2.5, affect specific municipalities in Allegheny County and city neighborhoods. Albert A. Presto, a research professor in Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, finally has some answers.

 

Maps he’s generated after monitoring air pollution levels at 70 key sites countywide for two years reveal levels of black carbon, which is a component of PM2.5; sulfur dioxide (SOX), nitric oxide (NOX), carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene and toluene, among others. Ozone levels were measured but not mapped.

 

Mr. Presto, who holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, will present his air-quality maps during a free public forum 7 p.m. tonight at the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, 605 Morewood Ave., Shadyside.

 

Deborah Gentile, an asthma and allergy physician at Allegheny General Hospital; Ted Popovich of Allegheny County Clean Air Now; and Stephen Riccardi, a field associate with Penn Environment, also will make presentations during the forum.

 

The black-carbon map, for example, shows high pollution levels concentrated in industrial sites and along heavily traveled roadways. But one conclusion is clear: Pittsburgh’s three rivers are pollution highways.

 

“You see heavy loading of pollution in valleys,” said Philip Johnson, director of the Heinz Endowments’ Breathe Project. The Endowments funded Mr. Presto’s research. “We all worry about black carbon because it is a significant contributor to climate change and health problems with associations to many adverse health outcomes from birth to death, including reproductive outcomes, heart attacks and stroke, and exasperation of [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease] and asthma.”

 

Pollution concentrations in river valleys, he said, should raise public concern about parks, bicycle trails and recreational facilities along the rivers, he said.

 

“We are encouraging people to go outside, to recreate, play and enjoy parks,” Mr. Johnson said. “But what can the city say about itself if it has the highest levels of black carbon in the most intimate areas of human experience? You have pollution trapped in areas where people live, work and play.”

 

In coming phases of pollution mapping, the project will identify specific sources of pollution and human exposure levels to show “where it is, where it is coming from, and whom it is affecting,” Mr. Johnson said.

 

Already, Mr. Presto said, the maps he generated represent the most detailed measurement of pollution by location, noting that other cities also are producing similar pollution maps. Until now, pollution levels largely were limited to county averages or the eight sites where the Allegheny County Health Department has placed pollution monitors.

 

To generate the maps, Mr. Presto said he identified 70 sites, both hill and dale, but also including busy highways with pollution largely linked to diesel fuel emissions and such industrial sites as the Cheswick power plant in Springdale, U.S. Steel Corp.’s Clairton Coke Works and the Shenago coke works on Neville Island.

 

The Heidelberg-Carnegie area showed unexpectedly higher pollution levels likely due to their valley locations, proximity to Interstate 79 and the Parkway West, and smaller industrial plants that are major sources of pollution, he said.

 

An area along the East Busway in the Oakland-Squirrel Hill area also had high pollution levels.

 

“People still think that industry is big steel mills,“ Mr. Presto said. ”But when you have close proximity to small facilities you can be exposed to elevated concentrations of pollution and associated health risks.”

 

David Templeton: dtempleton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1578

 

Kaye Burnet
WESA
February 10, 2015

 

BCmap

 

Pittsburgh is the 6th most offensive city in the country in terms of air pollution, according to a 2014 report from the American Lung Association.

 

However, Carnegie Mellon University professor Albert Presto wanted to look further into Pittsburgh’s air quality. Using mobile laboratories, including a van he called the “Breathmobile,” Presto drove throughout Allegheny County collecting pollution data. Presto turned this data into a series of color-coded maps that reveal where pollutants are found in the county.

 

Presto will present these maps in a public forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday night in the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh.

 

Presto said Pittsburgh air quality is marked by high levels of particulate matter that violate Environmental Protection Agency standards. Particulate matter is made up of small solid or liquid specks suspended in the air. Presto said this includes the puff of black smoke that large trucks emit and the smog that can make far-away hillsides or buildings look fuzzy.

 

Presto’s maps show heavy pollution concentrations in downtown, Oakland and the Monongahela River Valley, among other regions—“pretty much the places you would expect,” said Presto.

 

Industrial facilities such as the Clairton Coke Works emit large amounts of pollution in Allegheny County, said Presto, which can affect communities miles away. Pittsburgh’s river valleys augment the problem, Presto explained, because “the emissions can get trapped down there.”

 

Stephen Riccardi from the PennEnvironment Research Center said Pittsburgh does not have to choose between clean air and industry — industry just has to clean up its act.

 

“There’s a lot of it that’s just asking the facilities to be more careful in how they are going about their processes,” said Riccardi.

 

Riccardi pointed out that while Pittsburgh has made big improvements in air quality since its soot-ridden days of the last century, there is still an ongoing problem.

 

“With air pollution, ‘better’ is hardly good enough,” Riccardi said, pointing out that particulate matter aggravates asthma.

 

Dr. Deborah Gentile from Allegheny General Hospital will be present at Wednesday’s forum to explain how poor air quality can hurt public health. According to the World Health Organization, particulate matter can cause respiratory and heart problems. It has been linked to lung cancer and increased hospitalizations, especially among children and the elderly.

pennenvirWant to find out about the dangers of air pollution in our area and the associated health impacts? Want to see just how bad the pollution is in your own neighborhood? Is there a possible link between pollution and your child’s asthma? Head down to the Clean Air Forum to find out.

 

RSVP: http://bit.ly/1ETZhUg.

 

WHEN: Wednesday, February 11th, 7pm

 

WHO: Albert Presto, Ph.D, Carnegie Mellon University Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies; Deborah Gentile, MD, Allegheny General Hospital; Stephen Riccardi, PennEnvironment

 

EVENT LOCATION: First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, 605 Morewood Ave., Pittsburgh, PA  15213

 

5_ways-to-help

The Environmental Protection Agency recently designated Allegheny County as out of compliance with federal air quality standards for fine particulate matter, a type of air pollution known to cause premature death. The EPA’s detailed analysis shows that multiple local sources contribute to the county’s harmful levels of air quality.

 

We can do better. We need to do better.

 

Almost every other county – or 95 percent of the United States – already complies with the federal standards, set in 2012. And our country’s standards lag far behind those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the standards of one of our closest neighbors, Canada.

Attainment2

(NOTE: Blue counties – including Allegheny County – are those NOT in attainment. Source: EPA 2014)

 

Fine particulate matter kills tens of thousands of Americans each year. But it’s worth noting that solutions to this public health problem are well-understood and achievable. Also, for every dollar spent to reduce air pollution sources, many more dollars are saved by avoiding heart attacks, asthma and lost workdays and schooldays.

 

Since up to 66 percent of Allegheny County’s air pollution comes from sources within the county and Pennsylvania, the Breathe Project’s mission is to promote a collective understanding and vision that it is vitally important for all us to do more to improve our region’s air quality.

 

We need to do better, and we can do better.

 

Here are five ways our business, civic and community leaders can work together to reduce air pollution, and in so doing commit our region to having healthy air that is safe for all of us to breathe.

 

(1) Every reasonable step should be taken to ensure the largest local industrial air pollution sources are subject to stringent emissions controls and are not in violation of their permits. “Pay to pollute” is not a viable way to regulate facilities with violations.

 

(2) A comprehensive plan to reduce diesel emissions should be developed and various strategies should be employed to decrease their contribution to the problem. These efforts should include idling law enforcement, adoption of clean construction policies and retrofit/replacement projects. We should emulate some of the institutions in Pittsburgh that already have taken the lead to accomplish these goals.

 

(3) Mass transit, bike lanes and carpooling should continue to be incentivized.

 

(4) Laws on wood burning should be strengthened and enforced. There is no reason why entire portions of neighborhoods should be smoked out by a handful of wood burners whose emissions infiltrate into others’ homes and make yards virtually uninhabitable.

 

(5) Inventories should be conducted in the neighborhoods, schools and parks where we and our children live, work and play to assess their air pollution burden and contributing factors. With this information, steps should be taken to reduce sources within their control and to demand that regulators work harder and faster to clean up those sources outside of residents’ control.

 

We can act now to clean up our air. Let’s do it!

 

First Sustainability Pioneers Bridge Party!

 

Wednesday January 14, 2015, 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM

 

PointBreezeway
7113 Reynolds St
Pittsburgh, PA 15208

 

Join the first Sustainability Pioneers Bridge Party  – wine & cheese, networking, live music & and brainstorming on how to move from climate awareness to climate action.

 

FREE, but Registration is required: https://events.benchmarkemail.com/event/F9AE6E395

Local air quality groups are circulating a petition urging the Allegheny County Health Department to include air quality in the strategic plan they are adopting at the Board of Health meeting on Jan. 7. Please help move this important issue forward by signing.  http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2155/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=16891

For immediate release:
December 3, 2014

 

Breathe Cam Lets Citizens Document Pittsburgh’s
Visual Air Pollution and Its Sources

 

Carnegie Mellon Technology Now Part of The Heinz Endowments’ Breathe Project

 

PITTSBURGH—A system of four cameras, called Breathe Cam, now keeps a constant watch on air quality over Pittsburgh, providing citizens with a new interactive tool for monitoring and documenting visual pollution in the air they breathe and even tracing it back to its sources.

 

Funded by The Heinz Endowments as part of its Breathe Project, the camera system was developed and deployed by the CREATE Lab in Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. Anyone can access Breathe Cam online, where images of the Downtown, East End and Mon Valley skylines are updated around the clock.

 

Using the interactive controls, people can zoom in on items of interest, whether it’s a hovering brown cloud or individual smokestacks or coke plants. They can scan back in time to observe changes in visibility or to try to find the sources of dirty air. They also can skip back to particular dates and times that have been catalogued since the cameras were installed.

 

The researchers also have developed a computer vision tool to help people identify and quantify events of interest, such as releases from a smokestack. Users can correlate the visual conditions with hourly reports of fine particulate matter, ozone and other pollutant levels recorded by Allegheny County Health Department air monitoring stations.

 

“People can use Breathe Cam to gather visual evidence of what’s happening to the air they breathe, whether it’s for the entire city or for a pollution source that is a concern in their neighborhood,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, professor of robotics. “With a better understanding of the dynamics of our environment, people can work more effectively to improve conditions. This isn’t technology for technology’s sake, but for the sake of community empowerment.”

 

Breathe Cam includes four cameras that produce panoramic images: one atop Mount Washington’s Trimont Towers; another at 625 Liberty Avenue, Downtown; one directed toward the East End from the University of Pittsburgh’s Benedum Hall that was installed in October; and a camera overlooking the Mon Valley from Walnut Towers in Squirrel Hill.

 

“The launch of the Breathe Cam creates for Pittsburgh one of the world’s most sophisticated imaging technologies for visualizing air pollution,” said Grant Oliphant, president of The Heinz Endowments, which launched the Breathe Project in the fall of 2011 to improve air quality in southwestern Pennsylvania. “This powerful tool will help build public awareness about the effects of dirty air on our health and environment, while empowering people to better understand and reduce these impacts in their own communities.”

 

The technology behind Breathe Cam is similar to the CREATE Lab’s GigaPan system, which uses software to stitch together multiple photographs to create a large panorama with incredible resolution. But researchers, led by Randy Sargent and Paul Dille, have upgraded the system so people can explore the panoramas only minutes after the individual images are recorded.

 

“This is the first time we’ve had cameras that can take pictures this rapidly and do so 24/7,” said Sargent, senior systems scientist. “And we no longer have to wait hours to combine the photos into panoramas. Thanks to work by Paul Dille, it takes just five or 10 minutes to process each panorama. It’s enabled us to turn this into a service, not just a technology.”

 

Though people viewing Breathe Cam via their computers can zoom in on objects of interest, the resolution isn’t high enough to allow users to identify people. The researchers have taken pains not to compromise the privacy of individuals or their homes.

 

One computer vision tool will enable users to gather information from the cameras without constantly watching the images. The tool can be set to trigger when something of interest to the user, such as the release of smoke from a coke battery or smokestack, occurs. In addition to monitoring air pollution, the same tool can be used to detect train movement across the city.

 

With electronic cameras now commonplace, many individuals across the country already are using cameras to routinely monitor pollution sources. With Breathe Cam, Nourbakhsh noted, Carnegie Mellon and Heinz have developed a computer architecture for turning these camera feeds into an evidentiary system. He said work is underway to make such a system available to anyone who wants to share their camera feed with it. In addition, the Allegheny County Health Department and local environmental groups are partnering with CREATE Lab to use Breathe Cam technology in their efforts to monitor and improve air quality in the region.

 

Editors: Breathe Cam images, GIFs and video are available for download at http://breathecam.cmucreatelab.org/press

 

###

 

Carnegie Mellon University
Department of Media Relations
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
412-268-2900
Fax: 412-268-6929

 

Contact:
Byron Spice
Carnegie Mellon
412-268-9068
bspice@cs.cmu.edu

 

John Ellis, Senior Director of Communications
The Heinz Endowments
412-338-2657
je@heinz.org

 

About Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 12,000 students in the university’s seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Pittsburgh, Pa., California’s Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico.

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  • Breathe Project

    It stinks!

    Reports of foul-smelling air are coming in from the East End of Pittsburgh today. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened. The Breathe Project has received many complaints both last year and this year from people who lived in the city’s East End and nearby communities, and were both puzzled and disgusted with the stench.

    These foul-smelling days — and nights — affect our health and quality of life in many ways. Here are some concerns from local residents:

    • Chrisala Brown worries about her child’s health, explaining that “Situations like this…cause my child’s breathing problems…What’s going on Pennsylvania?”
    • Kristy Jo Volchko describes how the smell disrupts her sleep. “This is unacceptable,” she says.
    “All last year the sulfur smell was SO bad! It would creep in between midnight and 4 a.m. It would wake me from my sleep and I couldn't breathe and could taste in in my mouth. It smells like chemical death sewer around here. This is ridiculous.”
    • Ryan Poling complains that the stench inhibits his outdoor activity: “I wanted to go running today in the burgh, but bailed due to the nasty air.”
    • Natasha Girel seems resigned to the fact that she can’t even open her windows during pleasant weather. “Foul smell (occurs) early mornings in Squirrel Hill always,” she reports. “Stopped opening my windows in the summer long time ago because of it.”
    • Donna Holtkamp Marconyak’s echoes the feelings of other residents who are angry and have had enough, insisting, “This is disgusting and killing us!”

    Did YOU notice any foul smells today? Let us know what it smelled like, where you are located, and if it affected you or your activities today.

    Feb 24th 4:10pm • 13 Comments

    The GASP sponsored meeting to discuss the McConway and Torley facility has been RESCHEDULED to March 16th and will be held at Stephen Foster Community Center.

    Feb 23rd 4:39pm • No Comments

    Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) will hold a public meeting to discuss the McConway and Torley facility and air quality in Lawrenceville on Wednesday, February 25th. Attend and find out how members of the public can participate in the permit development process. RSVP to jamin@gasp-pgh.org http://j.mp/McTMtg1

    Group Against Smog and Pollution | Public Meeting on Lawrenceville Steel Foundry on Wed., Feb. 25

    gasp-pgh.org

    Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) is a non-profit citizens' group in Southwestern Pennsylvania working for a healthy, sustainable environment. Founded in 1969, GASP has been a diligent watchdog, educator, litigator, and policy-maker on many environmental issues, with a focus on air quality in…

    Feb 23rd 9:00am • No Comments

    Check out the NEW BreatheMobile page on the BreatheProject website! http://breatheproject.org/learn/breathe-mobile/

    Breathe Project

    breatheproject.org

    BREATHE is a unique coalition of business, government, organizations and citizens committed to improving air quality throughout the Pittsburgh region.

    Feb 20th 2:01pm • 2 Comments

    Just the facts...in real time!

    Keep an eye on your city's pollution in real time - tech - 19 February 2015 - New Scientist

    newscientist.com

    High resolution cameras can now capture haze and air pollution activity in real time and post it online

    Feb 20th 1:57pm • 1 Comment

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    Phone: (412) 338-2632
    Email: mnixon@heinz.org

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