With Air Pollution Reaching Unhealthy Levels Again, Mon Valley Residents Demand Action

Thursday, March 11, 2021
Awarding Clairton Coke Works the Closed Windows Award

After three days of violations – ‘This has to stop.’

(Clairton) – For the past three days, Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) monitors recorded exceedances of state and federal clean air standards in the Mon Valley. Levels of fine particles (PM2.5), reached unhealthy levels starting late Tuesday night which has continued through this morning, resulting in an exceedance of federal standards on Wednesday. The state hydrogen sulfide standard was violated on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and is likely to reach levels over the state standard today.

Residents in the Mon Valley expressed their frustration with ongoing poor air quality and demanded action from U.S. Steel (the largest pollution source in the Mon Valley) and Allegheny County officials.  Cindy Meckel, a Glassport resident with Valley Clean Air Now, stated, “When we have bad air days, we're limited like prisoners in our homes. This has to stop.”

Jacqueline Mills, a Clairton resident sent an email yesterday to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald which read in part, “As a resident and grandmother in Clairton I am always concerned about the air and its effects on my 6 grandchildren. There have been so many days over the previous summers that they couldn’t play outside because of air quality! As adults we know the importance of outdoor play for growing children. Please help our city improve the air quality for future generations.”

ACHD is currently considering two proposed air pollution regulations, one an update to the Coke Oven regulations and one that would specifically ask companies to reduce emissions during episodes of unhealthy air in the Mon Valley.

Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania Director for Clean Water Action stated, “Mon Valley residents are looking for leadership in Allegheny County, whether in industry or government, to ensure the public’s health is protected. We need to stop pretending this problem has been solved, and take action that will have an impact on the kind of dangerous levels of pollution we’re seeing this week.”

Clean Water Action has been reminding residents that when air quality is at unhealthy levels that they should avoid time outdoors. EPA has identified especially vulnerable groups as children, seniors, and people with a respiratory or heart condition. In the Mon Valley this is roughly half the population.

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Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. We will protect clean water in the face of attacks from a polluter friendly Administration.

Myron Arnowitt