air

Breathing Bad Air

Air pollution from traffic and industrial stacks finds its way to most places in Allegheny County. But minority and low-income neighborhoods are more likely to endure the highest levels and the health risks that come with not being able to find respite from bad air, a University of Pittsburgh study reports. Researchers mapped black carbon …

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“Historic Low Levels of Pollution”

Pittsburgh and surrounding neighborhoods received a respite from air pollution in the weeks after nonessential businesses were closed and residents were urged to stay at home and off the streets to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Fine particulate pollution and smog-making gases fell to levels rarely seen in Allegheny County from March 15 to …

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How Age Colors Views About the Environment

The air seems cleaner and the water fresher to middle-aged residents and seniors in Allegheny County, the urban center of southwestern Pennsylvania that has had its share of environmental struggles. A pronounced age gap separates the perspectives of residents across a spectrum of environmental issues ranging from air and water quality and the impact of …

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Pittsburgh Air Pollution Report: Particulates Drop, Ozone Rises

Levels of fine particulate air pollution, long an issue in southwestern Pennsylvania, fell in 2018, while ground-level ozone, whose concentrations had been waning in recent years, ticked upward amid concerns that natural gas drilling may be contributing to the rise. Fine particulates, also know as PM2.5, are microscopic airborne particles that can penetrate deep into …

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Air Quality Regulation: A Primer

Air quality in the United States is governed by a complex regulatory structure that sets pollution limits and authorizes federal, state and local agencies to enforce them. The regulations which agencies enforce vary with the source of pollution, what they emit and the air quality in the region where they are located. Federal President Richard …

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Mobile Source Pollution

Creeping into the Fort Pitt Tunnel, angling for space at the Parkway East’s Grant Street exit, or elbowing into a gap in traffic on the Veterans Bridge, tens of thousands of people drive or ride into and out of Downtown nearly every day. Trailing behind them are the often-invisible exhausts of internal combustion engines. At …

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Air Rules

Bluer skies over southwestern Pennsylvania owe a debt to local, state and federal regulations that have evolved over decades to spur technological advancements and investment in controlling air pollutants from industrial plants to the cars we drive. It wasn’t until the City of Pittsburgh adopted its Smoke Control Ordinance in 1941 that the dense smoke …

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Up in the Air: The Final Chapter

Air polllution’s place in the history of southwestern Pennsylvania is as prominent as the region’s mighty rivers and the steel industry that once crowded their banks. For nearly a century, it was a defining characteristic in the eyes of visitors, who pulled no punches when describing the grim conditions they found. “In truth, Pittsburg [sic] …

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Cokeless Steel?

Power companies aren’t alone in their shift away from coal. Steelmakers, industry groups and the federal government are spending millions looking for a way to make steel without coke, the carbon-rich form of coal used to fuel blast furnaces. Like coal-fired power generation, coke production is a major source of air pollution, and its processing …

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Petrochemical Alley

Shell Chemical Appalachia’s petrochemical complex has begun to rise from a dusty Beaver County brownfield that follows a slow bend in the Ohio River near Monaca. It took hefty tax incentives to secure it. The nation’s largest zinc smelter was razed to make room for it. More than 7 million cubic feet of earth were …

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Energy’s Big Shift

A decade ago, as Consol Energy’s 150th anniversary drew near, top executives began to take stock in where the company stood as a leading producer of coal and where that path would take it. Coal was in what CEO Nicholas DeIuliis called a “supercycle.” It was the workhorse of the national power grid and less …

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Drilling for Answers

Well pads, compressor stations, diesel truck traffic. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves many moving parts, some of which have the potential to vent pollutants into the air southwestern Pennsylvanians breathe. Fracking doesn’t consist of large, stationary pollution sources, like U.S. Steel’s metallurgical coke plant in Clairton, where emissions are monitored daily, the pollutants they contain …

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Living Dangerously

Despite the improvement in the region’s air quality in recent years, southwestern Pennsylvania still fails to meet federal health-based standards for various major air pollutants, such as ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide and fine particulates, known as PM2.5. And that regional pollution elevates risks of cancer, respiratory ailments and other serious health problems. Air pollution increases …

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Does Air Quality Matter to Young Workers?

As their due date neared last fall, Ryan Poling and his wife faced a difficult decision. Did they want to raise their daughter in Pittsburgh, the city in which they’ve built a life during the last nine years, or pick up and move across the country, near Poling’s family in California? “It’s really hard to …

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Toxic Chemical Emissions: The Region’s Top 10 Air Polluters

Although the region’s air has improved dramatically from the height of Pittsburgh’s industrial past, southwestern Pennsylvania remains home to factories and power plants that release millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into the air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data to track toxic chemicals released into the air, water and …

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Inconspicuous and Dangerous

The heavy smoke is gone. But particulates 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair and gases formed by the reaction of sunlight and fossil fuels exhaust remain as the region’s most widespread, stubborn and dangerous air quality problems. Unlike the smoke that draped large swaths of southwestern Pennsylvania during its industrial heyday, …

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Taming Air Pollution: The Region’s Century-Old Challenge

Southwestern Pennsylvania and air quality have long had a complicated relationship. For the better part of a century, the region had been a place so polluted from the soot of industry and homes heated by coal that street lamps were lit in the afternoon and walking a single block could ruin the collar of a …

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