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By Philip Johnson, PhD, MPH, MESc
Program Director for Science and Environment
Director, The Breathe Project

The Heinz Endowments

 

A leading pediatric asthma specialist has found that air pollution in the Pittsburgh region contributes to the local incidence and severity of asthmatic disease in our schoolchildren. The study led by Dr. Deborah Gentile, director of allergy and asthma clinical research for Allegheny Health Network, determined that poor air quality in four suburban districts — Northgate, Allegheny Valley, Gateway and Woodland Hills — as well as the City of Pittsburgh was not only the leading predictor of asthma, but it also was associated with a higher rate of uncontrolled asthma in children who participated in the volunteer study.

 

This is the most recent of several studies showing that our region’s air pollution is hurting our children.

 

In 2014, University of Pittsburgh researchers discovered that southwestern Pennsylvania children with autism spectrum disorder were more likely to have been exposed to higher levels of airborne chromium, styrene and fine particulate matter pollution.  Dr. Evelyn Talbott, principal investigator of the analysis and a professor of epidemiology in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, found that children exposed during their mothers’ pregnancies and the first two years of life have a greater risk of developing autism.

 

Other studies have examined the region’s air pollution more broadly, but the connections to the impact on children’s health are hard to ignore.

 

Is it a coincidence that an analysis by the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force of state and federal air quality measurement sites from nearly 300 urban areas ranks the Pittsburgh area in the dirtiest 15 percent of monitored cities for fine particulate matter?

 

Is it a coincidence that Allegheny County’s cancer risk attributable to industrial air pollution ranks in the highest 0.03 percent of all counties in the United States, according to the National Air Toxics Assessment?

 

Is it a coincidence that last year Pittsburgh had about 250 days of air quality that was not good, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency? And that Allegheny County is among only a handful of the thousands of counties in the country still not meeting federal air quality standards?

 

Science says all of this is not a coincidence. In fact, science shows that air pollution is hurting our region’s children.

 

Fine particle air pollution prematurely kills nearly 100,000 Americans each year, contributes to asthma, sends many thousands with respiratory and heart disease to hospitals and emergency rooms, and results in untold numbers of lost school and work days. Studies in Pittsburgh and across the country have shown that prenatal, infant and child exposures to air pollutants – such as ozone, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and fine particles – are associated with outcomes including premature birth and low birth weight, impairment of brain development leading to cognitive and behavioral disorders, and acute and chronic respiratory illness and disease.

 

Leading health science and pediatric experts such as Dr. Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York note that children are exquisitely more sensitive than adults to toxic chemicals in the environment. Children experience greater exposures to toxic chemicals per pound body weight – meaning they breathe in more air pollution than adults do relative to their size. Their systems are not fully capable of eliminating toxins. Their early developmental processes are easily disrupted by pollutants, so exposures to pollution can lead to a variety of serious health conditions. We should not be surprised that air pollution disproportionately harms our children.

 

Since February, The Heinz Endowments and foundation President Grant Oliphant have been urging people across the region to consider ways of creating what Mr. Oliphant has called a “Just Pittsburgh.” One aspect of this idea is devising strategies to safeguard air and water quality everywhere, for everyone, including our most vulnerable citizens.

 

Here are three things we can do to protect our children:

1) Demand that regulatory officials stop allowing “checkbook compliance” for chronic smoke stack polluters. Industrial sources – which generate nearly 60 percent of Allegheny County’s direct fine particle pollution – should be held to a standard of actual compliance with laws. Industry should not be allowed to pay fines and continue to pollute.

 

2)  Ask school administrations and boards to prioritize protecting children from pollution. Asthma and autism exact a heavy toll on children’s school attendance and performance. Schools can be environmental sanctuaries for children – clean and free of pollution. School staff, environmental health and building maintenance experts can work together to eliminate the use and presence of harmful chemicals, products and pollutants in and around schools, and to ensure the use of newer school buses with lower emissions.

 

3) Encourage elected officials to champion clean air and to promote smart policies and programs. National health experts say that better air quality is one of the most beneficial and effective ways to improve health. Economic benefits also greatly increase due to reduced health care costs. There are many proven ways local officials can make a difference. A few examples include citywide clean construction requirements for developers, building design standards that clean indoor air and reduce the intrusion of outdoor air, and engagement with medical and insurance leaders to encourage preventive health care.

 

A recent Allegheny County health indicator survey found that air pollution is the number one concern of local residents. People want clean air. A just city and region provides a healthy and livable environment for our children, and that includes ensuring that they are breathing clean air.

 

On May 5, Allegheny General Hospital, Allegheny Health Network and The Breathe Project of The Heinz Endowments presented a summit on the impact of the Pittsburgh region’s air quality on asthma outcomes in our communities.  Pittsburgh’s particulate matter air pollution is among the worst 15 percent of cities across the country. Particulate matter pollution is tied to multiple illnesses, including asthma.  The summit focused on air quality in Pittsburgh and health impacts of urban living.  The summit also summarized recent research findings about asthma outcomes in our region and provided an overview of the region’s clean air plan.

 


Philip Johnson, PhD, MPH, MESc
Program Director, Science and Environment, The Heinz Endowments
Director of the Breathe Project

 


Norman Anderson, MSPH
Environmental Public Health Consultant
Winslow, Maine

 


Deborah Gentile, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine
Director of Research, Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Allegheny Health Network

 


Michael Brauer (Keynote)
Professor, Faculty of Medicine, School of Population and Public Health
Director, Bridge Program, The University of British Columbia

 


Margaret Sammon Parsons, PhD
Healthy Air Campaign Coordinator, American Lung Association in PA

 


Thurman Brendlinger, MBA
Program Director, Clean Air Council

Breathe_Cam_photo_captures-July_2014

Visible pollution in Pittsburgh:  compare days with low vs elevated levels of fine particulate matter. Both our visual and olfactory senses can act as “monitors” of pollution, depending on the type of pollutant. However, some pollutants impart no odors and cannot be seen. (Images from the Breathe Cam)

 

By Albert Presto
Assistant Research Professor, Mechanical Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University

 

What we put into the air doesn’t stay in one place. This may seem obvious to anyone who has stood downwind of a smoky campfire or watched the wind push around dust and leaves. But this fact often seems to be forgotten when examining the impacts of a pollution source on nearby populations. The bias is generally to focus very close to the source. This is with good reason – regardless of which way the wind is blowing, emissions from a factory or other facility will almost always be present nearby – but it also can give the misleading impression that only those people living in the shadow of a source can be affected.

 

In Pittsburgh, our noses can remind us of the presence nearby pollution sources. Local residents, myself included, will report instances of “industrial” odors, even if they live or work miles away from the nearest major industrial facility. Others smell nothing. The odors tend to be most intense in the morning hours, when the atmosphere is calm and the ground-level mixed layer is shallow, meaning that emissions are trapped near the ground.

 

To many, the source of these odors can be puzzling. We don’t live in Pittsburgh’s bad old days, when steel mills up and down the rivers belched black smoke day and night. Often there is no visible indication of a source, such as smoke or an idling truck nearby. The few remaining major sources are clustered into a few enclaves along the rivers (like the Monongahela River valley industrial complex), often far from where people smell and report the odors from. With no smoking gun, what makes the stink?

 

To help answer this question, my research group at Carnegie Mellon University recently characterized air pollution in two Pittsburgh neighborhoods about 10 miles from any major industrial sources. We found that in both locations, one in the suburban south hills and one in Squirrel Hill, concentrations of some pollutants would peak during the overnight and early morning hours. These pollutants included a class of cancer-causing organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, and xylenes, collectively known as BTEX. BTEX is emitted by a number of different sources, including automobiles and some industrial activities.

 

We were able to determine that the nighttime and early morning peaks in BTEX are the result of nearby industrial emissions, trapped near the ground by weather conditions, and transported to our measurement locations by the wind. The industrial sources contributed about 70 percent of the measured BTEX at the two measurement sites, with traffic making up about a quarter. This means that industrial sources can dominate human exposures to pollutants classified as air toxics by the EPA. Industrial and traffic sources show very different temporal patterns – the traffic source is strongest in the day, when people are driving their cars, whereas the industrial source peaks overnight, during hours when many people are home and asleep. Thus, people may be unaware of their exposure. The industrial plumes can also persist into the morning hours, mixing with traffic emissions and affecting exposures during the early waking hours.

 

Do these BTEX plumes match with reports from the local nose patrol? Our initial results indicate that they do. Several volunteers logged smell reports while my team was making our measurements. Each smell event logged by our volunteers matched a measured overnight plume, though our smellers did not log every measured plume event. It’s important to note that smelly or not, these plumes exist and impact large parts of the county. Truly determining the accuracy of the human nose at identifying these industrial plumes will require a more focused study, but the initial results suggest that the industrial smells noticed by the public are real and are the result of plumes of industrial emissions.

 

Read the full report on this research.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

 

Presentations Will Include Results of AHN Study on Asthma in Pittsburgh-area Schoolchildren, Keynote Address on Health Impacts of Urban Living 

 
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Leading asthma experts will gather Thursday, May 5 in Pittsburgh to explore the impact regional air quality has on asthmatic disease in the Pittsburgh community. “The Air We Breathe: A Regional Summit on Asthma in Our Community,” presented by Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and The Breathe Project of The Heinz Endowments, runs from 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.

 

AHN’s Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) and The Breathe Project have partnered since 2012 to bring together internationally leading experts on the health impacts of air pollution to address the latest scientific information and raise further awareness about this public health issue. The Summit is free and open to the public, and members of the media are invited to attend.

 

A highlight of this year’s Summit will be a presentation by Deborah Gentile, MD, Director of Allergy and Asthma Clinical Research in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine at AHN, on findings from a recently completed study of asthma prevalence, severity and risk factors among local school children. The Breathe Project funded Dr. Gentile’s pilot study of 267 fifth-grade students from 12 Pittsburgh-area schools. She will make her presentation, “Impact of Air Quality on Asthma Outcomes in Our Region’s Schoolchildren,” at 9 a.m.

 

The keynote speaker at the Summit is Michael Brauer, ScD, a professor of medicine at The University of British Columbia who sits on the Scientific Advisory Panel of the Climate and Clear Air Coalition (CCAC), part of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Dr. Brauer specializes in the assessment of exposure and health impacts of air pollution, particularly transportation-related and biomass air pollution. His keynote address, “Health Impacts of Urban Living,” is scheduled for 10:15 to 11:15 a.m.

 

“Pittsburgh certainly has come a long way from the place where the streetlights infamously would come on during the daytime because the air was so heavy and dark from pollution, but much work remains to be done,” said Dr. Gentile. “Pittsburgh’s particulate matter pollution is among the worst 15 percent of cities in the United States, and particulate matter pollution is tied to multiple illnesses, including asthma. The Allergy and Asthma Foundation has ranked Pittsburgh as the 27th-most challenging U.S. city to live with asthma. Events like the Summit are important to ensure we are working together to develop the best possible solutions to the asthma epidemic.”

 

Other topics and presenters at the Summit will include:

•    “Air Quality in Pittsburgh and Environmental Health Challenges” – 8:10 a.m., Philip Johnson, MPH, PhD, Program Director for Science and Environment and Director of The Breathe Project at The Heinz Endowments

•    “Developing Air Quality Guidance Criteria for Urban Planners: How Model Cities Can Make a Difference” – 8:30 a.m., Norman Anderson, MSPH, environmental public health consultant

•    “Call to Action: Working Together for Clean Air in the Region” – 11:15 a.m., Thurman Brendlinger, MBA, Program Director, Clean Air Council and Margaret Sammon Parsons, PhD, Healthy Air Campaign Coordinator, American Lung Association in PA

 

Nearly 25 million Americans, and more than 9 percent of children, suffer from asthma. It accounts for 25 percent of all emergency room visits and 3,300 deaths yearly, many of which could be avoided with proper treatment and care.

 

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For more information, contact:

This week, the folks at GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution) did a retro thing in our digital, share-it-all world. Rather than deluge Pittsburgh Public Schools with tweets and Facebook posts asking them to upgrade their buses to spew less pollution, they went old-school, delivering hundreds of postcards, signed by parents and community members, to district administration at a Board of Education meeting.

IdleBlog1

In mid-December, Group Against Smog and Pollution delivered hundreds of signed postcards to Pittsburgh Public Schools, urging them to upgrade school buses so that they emit fewer pollutants.

 

School buses? They emit pollution? Yes.

Every day, while kids wait to board the bus after school, while they’re in transit, idling school buses release a soup of polluting chemicals into the air and into your kids’ lungs. It’s called diesel particulate matter, and it’s made up of benzene, formaldehyde, nitrogen compounds, sulfur compounds, and tiny pieces of metal, ash and carbon (dude, that’s a list!).

And it’s not just your kids breathing in that stuff. The teachers and para-pros who wait with them and the bus drivers who take them home also get lungs full of the stuff. Every day.

Buses waiting near Pittsburgh's downtown schools. They are turned off, not idling.

Buses waiting near Pittsburgh’s downtown schools. They are turned off, not idling.

Pollution is strongly linked to childhood asthma, other respiratory illnesses in kids and adults and heart problems in grown-ups. So, GASP’s request to PPS was a simple one – as the district renegotiates their contract with the school bus companies they want to work with, insist that

a) they use only newer buses built with emission controls,

or

b) that they retrofit their old fleets with diesel particulate filters.

 

GASP said to the district, be part of the plan to give our kids the cleanest air possible every day.

 

We have some of the worst air in the United States, and that’s true for pretty much all of the Pittsburgh area. Idling may not be our biggest source of pollution in Pittsburgh, but it’s an important and comparatively easy one to manage.

 

While the bulk of the schmutz in the air comes from industrial point sources like coke ovens, the few remaining steel mills and cement plants, a good chunk of it also comes from commercial diesel vehicles. By law, they are allowed to idle for five out of every 60 minutes in operation, and up to 15 minutes per hour if they carry passengers in need of say, heat or air conditioning.

 

So, school buses, tour buses, those large coaches that take commuters back to the exurbs each day – they really aren’t supposed to sit with their engines running. Yet, they do, even in the case of school buses, as they are sitting in front of mandatory signs asking them not to. GASP has sent several hundred signs to 13 different regional school districts, including most recently, the one in Hempfield.

Buses are not supposed to idle outside schools for longer than five minutes per 60 minute stretch.

Buses are not supposed to idle outside schools for longer than five minutes per 60 minute stretch.

 

Getting newer buses is a good deal for districts, too. They are more reliable. Parents get fewer calls about stalled buses. Drivers don’t have to worry if turning off the bus means they won’t be able to turn it back on.

 

And then, there’s this: money. The idling law is only enforceable by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection inspectors and local police departments. The cops get half the fine in civic revenue for each ticket paid. For communities who have the manpower, enforcing this law means cash in the coffers.

 

So, as the school year continues, here’s to the teachers, parents, drivers and even the kids themselves who talk to bus drivers and school officials about this issue, and who value the littlest lungs in our city. Cleaner buses and less idling means a less toxic educational environment in southwestern PA, and who wouldn’t get behind that?

 

If your school district is lacking the mandatory signage contact GASP at idling@gasp-pgh.org for information on free signs.

 

Breathe Project gets lots of messages from people like you – concerned, proactive folks wanting to do more to clean up the air in southwest Pennsylvania.

 

Whether you have just a couple of hours to spare each week, or are looking for full- and part-time internships, there are tons of organizations in our area that want to meet you. Most of the internship opportunities will be unpaid, but in many cases, you can get college credit.

 

So, check them out, learn more about what they do, and use the contact information below to get involved! We’re all in this together. We all deserve to breathe clean air.

 

 

Sierra Club

Sierra Club is always looking for interns and volunteers. They’ll meet with you over coffee, talk about what you’d like to do, and work from there.

 

Email Randy Francisco, randy.francisco@sierraclub.org.

 

 

CWA

Clean Water Action is not just about waterways – they work on air quality issues as well. You meet with staffers and work together to create an experience that benefits you both.

Contact Cassi Steenblok, csteenblok@cleanwater.org, or Steve Hvozdovich shvozdovich@cleanwater.org.

 

 

ALA3dStackStatePA

 

The American Lung Association takes volunteers and interns. Along with funding research and advocating for clean air and healthy lungs, the American Lung Association is well known for State of the Air, their yearly air quality report for the United States.

 

Contact Paige Dewhirst, pdewhirst@lunginfo.org.

 

 

Fair Shake

Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services works on environmental justice issues with clients of modest means in Pennsylvania and Ohio. They offer internships in several different areas and are looking for people with undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in subjects/fields such as law, public policy, environmental science, environmental engineering, technology and communications.

 

Contact Oday Salim for Pennsylvania opportunities at osalim@fairshake-els.org.

Contact James Yskamp for Ohio opportunities at jyskamp@fairshake-els.org.

 

 

 

PennFuture

 

Penn Future does great work around Pittsburgh’s air quality issues. They take interns and volunteers and are looking for attorneys, people to help with outreach and communications, and folks with experience or an interest in local air quality, shale gas, local government and implementation of the Clean Power Plan.

 

Contact George Jugovic, jugovic@pennfuture.org.

 

 

WHE

Women for a Healthy Environment works on lots of issues, including air quality in the Pittsburgh area. They are looking for interns or volunteers with experience or education in the following areas: communications, education, environmental studies, sustainability, public policy and public health.

 

Contact Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, info@womenforahealthyenvironment.org.

 

 

CAC

 

Clean Air Council is looking for volunteers and interns to help with canvassing in the Mon Valley, and for educational outreach on major point source pollution. They work on everything from pipelines to point sources.

 

Contact Mollie Simon, msimon@cleanair.org.

 

 

GASP

 

GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution) works on many projects in the Pittsburgh area, from litigation concerning point sources to educational campaigns to reduce idling school buses and diesel vehicles. Interns candidates will meet with staff to create a program that benefits both the candidate and GASP. Volunteers will receive appropriate training for projects as they arise.

 

Contact Jamin Bogi, jamin@gasp-pgh.org.

 

 

 

PennEnvironment

 

Penn Environment is a statewide organization that deals with many issues, including air quality. Interns will work on outreach projects, building new coalitions and working on existing coalitions. They will help recruit volunteers, plan events and work on media projects. Volunteers will work on citizen outreach projects and events.

 

Contact Stephen Riccardi, stephen@pennenvironment.org

Researchers at Pitt took a look at births in southwest Pennsylvania and found a link between exposure to chromium and styrene and autism.

 

The study is here. We’re going to do our best to summarize it below.

 

Who did the study?

The study leader is Evelyn Talbot. She’s an epidemiologist in the public health school at Pitt. Epidemiologists try to establish cause and effect for disease, but often, they are also looking for correlations – things that have a relationship to each other, but aren’t necessarily cause and effect. A correlation is what they say they have found in this paper.

Children playing in the shadow of the coal-fired power plant in Cheswick.

Children playing in the shadow of the coal-fired power plant in Cheswick.

Who was in the study?

Talbot’s team took a look at the medical history and talked to the moms of 217 children born between 2005 and 2009 who have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. These kids live in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington or Westmoreland Counties. The researchers also looked at a similar number of children who weren’t on the autism spectrum and interviewed their moms. They also compared their findings to thousands of births in the area, but there were no interviews.

 

Um, 217 kids doesn’t seem like a lot. Is it?

Is 217 enough to do a study? The authors said that based on predictions of the number of children born in these counties in those years, they wanted to enroll about half the number predicted to have ASD (autism spectrum disorder). That would be 250 children. Pretty close!

 

How do you know the kids were exposed to anything?

The team used computer models based on pollution data collected by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to predict the actual exposure of each kid in the study based on addresses during the study period. They looked at 30 different air toxics that are found in southwestern PA that have been known to effect development, our nervous systems or our hormone systems.

 

And they found what?

Of the 30 different air toxics they looked at (things like benzene, arsenic and lead), they found a pretty strong correlation between developing autism and exposure to styrene, an oily chemical that ends up in plastics and chromium, a metal that is sometimes used in steel production.

 

Now what?

The study is just the beginning, but since we already know that exposure to pollution can impact children and adults, the authors think that following up with monitoring the levels of styrene and chromium in the air can give us more data to better understand individual outcomes. One surprising thing is that we have no autism registry in PA. Given the number of people studying the disorders, and the list of potential causes, the researchers are calling on the state, if not the nation, to start a registry.

 

 

Something you have to see – a photo exhibit of lives and air pollution in Southwest Pittsburgh. Starting Friday, Sept. 18 at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

A child playing with fireworks. A significant source of pollution.

A child playing with fireworks. A significant source of pollution.

 

For the past year, local artists have used photography and interviews to try and visual thesocial, political, economic and health impacts of air pollution in the greater Pittsburgh area. We live in a region with about a dozen air quality monitors, gathering data about what we breathe. And guess what, nearly all of them record numbers in the worst one-third of the nation.

Children playing in the shadow of the coal-fired power plant in Cheswick.

Children playing in the shadow of the coal-fired power plant in Cheswick. This is one of the photos to be on exhibit at Pittsburgh Filmmakers from Sept. 18 through Feb. 26, 2016.

You can’t see air, but in this project all are the ways that you feel its impact. Make a night of it. Go.

Sept. 18, 2015 through Feb. 26, 2016

477 Melwood, Pittsburgh, 15213

Hey folks – big news today out of PennEnvironment – they’ve filed their intent to sue ArcelorMittal, the global steel company, for what they describe as hundreds of violations of the Clean Air Act out of their plant in Monessen, south of Pittsburgh.

 

PennEnvironment held a press conference today to discuss the pending suit, with people who live in the neighborhood talking about how hard it is to live by the plant. The full text of their press release is below.

 

PENNENVIRONMENT TO SUE WORLD’S LARGEST
STEEL COMPANY OVER ILLEGAL AIR POLLUTION

ArcelorMittal’s Pittsburgh-area Plant Commits Hundreds of Clean Air Act Violations, Raining Soot and Foul Odors on Local Residents

 

[PITTSBURGH, PA] – At a news conference held in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh, representatives of the citizen-based non-profit group PennEnvironment announced they’re taking the required steps to trigger a lawsuit against the world’s largest steel company, ArcelorMittal, to address hundreds of ongoing violations of the federal Clean Air Act.

 

The suit would address a wide variety of alleged problems at ArcelorMittal USA, Inc.’s Monessen Coke Plant, located twenty-five miles south of Pittsburgh on the banks of the Monongahela River. Local residents say the plant is fouling the air over a wide swath of southwestern Pennsylvania.

 

The required pre-suit notice letter, sent on behalf of PennEnvironment and its members to ArcelorMittal, as well as to state and federal regulators, alleges that residents of numerous nearby towns surrounding the plant have been showered with soot, acidic gases, and noxious odors since the idled, decades-old facility re-started in April 2014. These include the municipalities of Monessen, Donora, Monongahela, and Carroll Township, located in both Westmoreland and Washington counties.

Monessengrafix

A view of the ArcelorMittal plant in Monessen. Photo by Logan Tilley

 

“I’ve met with residents who live in towns all around this plant, and their stories about air pollution from this facility are gut-wrenching,” said David Masur, Executive Director of PennEnvironment. “Ever since the Monessen Coke Plant re-opened last year, local residents have had their quality of life diminished, have endured ongoing odors and soot, and have had to fear for their health and the health of their families. This is appalling and unacceptable.”

 

“The smell that emanates from the Monessen plant is consistently foul and sometimes so suffocating that I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I only get relief from these odors and pollution when I leave the area,” said Viktoryia Maroz, a resident of Donora, PA.

 

Photos of the facility can be viewed at hC4l. If using photos to accompany a news story, please credit as, “Logan Tilley.”

 

The Clean Air Act’s “citizen suit” provision allows private individuals and organizations to sue violators in federal court after first providing 60 days’ notice of their intent to file suit and of the violations to be addressed in the suit.

 

The Monessen plant’s 56 coke battery ovens heat coal at high temperatures to produce nearly 1,000 tons per day of “coke,” a form of carbon that is added to molten iron to produce steel. Coke from the Monessen plant is shipped to ArcelorMittal’s various North American steel mills.

 

The production of coke creates massive amounts of toxic, chemical-laden gases and fine particulate pollutants that, if not properly contained and treated, can cause serious environmental and public health problems when released to the surrounding environment.

 

The notice letter alleges a wide range of violations at ArcelorMittal’s Monessen plant, including:

 

• Operating the plant for days and weeks at a time while a key air pollution control device was out of service;
• Approximately 200 violations of the facility’s pollution limits for hydrogen sulfide (a toxic gas with a foul odor), sulfur dioxide (a respiratory irritant and contributor to acid rain), and particulate matter (which can lodge in the lungs and exacerbate respiratory problems);
• Failure to install a mandatory monitoring device needed to track the amount of hydrogen sulfide coming from the facility’s smokestacks.

 

At times, violations have been so egregious that ArcelorMittal’s emission levels have been up to eight times higher than the legally allowable limits.

 

ArcelorMittal USA, Inc., is headquartered in Chicago. Its parent company is headquartered in Luxembourg and has annual revenues of over $80 billion.

 

PennEnvironment’s lawsuit will be filed by the non-profit attorneys at the National Environmental Law Center (NELC), in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, located in Pittsburgh. The lawsuit will seek a court order requiring the Monessen Coke Plant to comply with its Clean Air Act permit, and civil penalties against ArcelorMittal to punish it for past violations and to deter future violations.

 

A separate class-action lawsuit (unrelated to the suit announced today by PennEnvironment) has been filed against ArcelorMittal’s Monessen Coke Plant, seeking monetary damages for residents suffering from noxious odors and soot.

 

“It’s outrageous that the world’s largest steel company, which brings in $80 billion annually, can’t find a way to comply with our cornerstone environmental laws and ensure the health and safety of nearby residents,” stated Masur. “That’s anything but being a good corporate neighbor.”

 

###

 

PennEnvironment is a citizen-funded, statewide environmental advocacy organization. For more information about this or other PennEnvironment campaigns, please visit our website at www.PennEnvironment.org.

 

The National Environmental Law Center (NELC) is a non-profit environmental litigation group. NELC will be joined in the lawsuit by attorney David Nicholas of Newton, Massachusetts, and Pittsburgh attorney Thomas Farrell of Farrell & Reisinger, LLC.

code_orange
Code_Orange
 
Today, the State Department of Environmental Resources has issued a “code orange” alert.  The air quality index is expected to enter the range of 101 to 150 for Pittsburgh, the Liberty-Clairton area in southeastern Allegheny County, and Indiana County.  This level of pollution puts young children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems in danger.
 
Click on the link above to watch a short video clip to see what a code orange day in Pittsburgh looks like.
 
Read more about this alert in today’s Post Gazette.

events
September 10, 2016
Go Green Festival plus Electric Car Show & Cruise A FREE Event Sponsored by Marcellus Outreach Butler, in cooperation with National Drive Electric Week and Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Committee   September 10, 2016 11 am – 5 pm   Kohl’s lower lot at Cranberry Commons (Rt. 228), Cranberry … Learn More
July 29, 2016
2016-2017 Green Workplace Challenge – Workshop Are you interested in competing in 2016-2017 Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge (GWC) but want to learn more before signing up by the Aug. 31 deadline? Are you signed up for the Challenge and ready to get ahead of the competition? … Learn More
June 16, 2016
Kickoff Celebration for the 2016-2017 Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge Commit to making the Pittsburgh region a better place to live, work, and play! Sign up for this year’s Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge (GWC) and attend the kickoff celebration on June 16!  All are invited to attend the kickoff, regardless … Learn More
May 12, 2016
FracTracker Lease Map Workshop as part of PF/PCA Exhibition FracTracker Alliance invites southwest PA residents to learn more about the first ever online, searchable map of oil and gas leases in Allegheny County, PA. FracTracker is holding a public workshop at the PCA galleries on May 12th to demonstrate … Learn More
May 11, 2016
Making the Connection: Air Pollution & Brain Health GASP event on May 11, 5-8pm at Botany Hall, Phipps Conservatory Advance Registration. Learn More
May 5, 2016
The Air We Breathe: A Regional Summit on Asthma in our Community To commemorate World Asthma Month in May, Allegheny General Hospital, Allegheny Health Network, and The Breathe Project are presenting a summit on the impact of the Pittsburgh region’s air quality on asthma outcomes in our communities. Pittsburgh’s particulate matter air … Learn More
March 16, 2015
GASP holding a public meeting to discuss air quality in Lawrenceville   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 … Learn More
February 11, 2015
How is air pollution is impacting your life? Want 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 … Learn More
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  • Breathe Project

    Register for the 6th Annual Pittsburgh Solar Tour! http://pghsolartour.org/ The event is this Saturday from 12-4pm. #pghsolartour

    Bike or walk your way through the tour, visiting sustainable restaurants and businesses along the way.

    Bike Pittsburgh
    Sustainable Pittsburgh
    PennFuture

    2016 Pittsburgh Solar Tour

    2016 Pittsburgh Solar Tour

    PennFuture's sixth annual Pittsburgh Solar Tour encourages solar and clean energy solutions by connecting the public to a variety of residential, public and commercial solar installations and solar installers. Each year, this free event attracts more than 200 participants from western Pennsylvania. This year's event will take place on Saturday, October 1st from noon to 4 p.m. and will feature exciting new additions and activities.

    For instance, participants can choose from one of multiple local routes, that will feature a mix of solar homes, businesses, and green roofs in the Pittsburgh region.

    There will be:
    *20 tour stops with educational resources & knowledgeable solar owners and advocates at each one
    *Mapped bike paths on each route to increase accessibility and engagement Children's activities & sustainable restaurants promoted on each route

    The Pittsburgh Solar Tour is held each October in conjunction with National Solar Tour month sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and is a featured tour on the National Solar Tour.

    A special thanks to our sponsors:

    Supporting: Levin Furniture

    Associate: Breathe Project, Pitt Ohio, Eisler Landscapes, Solar City, EIS Solar, Everpower, Scalo Solar, & IKEA.

    Public: Conservation Consultants Inc., Green Building Alliance, Bike Pittsburgh, Sustainable Pittsburgh, The Penn State Center, SUNWPA, Solarize Allegheny, & the Carnegie Science Center.

    Sep 26th 2:10pm • No Comments

    TOMORROW: @healthyridepgh + @BikePGH + @RiverlifePgh hosting #LunchLoop - Register http://bit.ly/1XnyhZb

    BikePGH's #LunchLoop

    bit.ly

    Aug 22nd 9:08am • No Comments

    Tired of sitting at your desk? Join @BikePGH for #LunchLoop Aug 23 & enjoy bike lanes/riverfront trails! Register: http://bit.ly/1UxH5Wi

    BikePGH's #LunchLoop

    www.eventbrite.com

    Join us for the first Lunch Loop on June 17th! Tired of sitting at your desk all day? Looking for something different to do during your lunch break? Want to incorporate some fitness into your work day? Well we've got the thing for you. Trade in your normal lunchtime routine and join BikePGH for the...

    Aug 17th 1:13pm • No Comments

    Congrats @CarnegieMellon on receiving $750K award from @EPA to improve Pgh #airquality http://bit.ly/2aXQkpo

    Pennsylvania Ag Connection - EPA Awards $750K for Carnegie Mellon to Advance Monitoring Tech

    www.pennsylvaniaagconnection.com

    Your Daily Source for Pennsylvania Ag & Farm News, Markets, Weather, Auctions and Real Estate

    Aug 16th 3:47pm • 1 Comment

    Thanks so much to all of our new Facebook friends! Have a wonderful week and enjoy the last bit of summer.

    Timeline Photos

    Aug 16th 10:48am • No Comments

  • Press Contact
  • The Heinz Endowments
    Linda Braund, Communications Manager
    Phone: 412.338.2636
    Email: lbraund@heinz.org
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