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Public Comment Period for Allegheny County Health Department’s Annual Air Monitoring Plan Closes Monday

Time is running out to submit public comments on Allegheny County Health Department’s 2022 air monitoring network plan, an annual report that provides a detailed description of how and where air pollution is monitored in the county. 

A little background: To ensure that all areas of the country meet federally established ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires submission of Air Monitoring Network Plans from each state and local agency that monitors air quality. These reports provide:

  • the specific location of each monitoring station 
  • siting criteria
  • monitoring methods and objectives
  • frequency of sampling
  • pollutants measured at each station and
  • aerial photographs showing their physical location

ACHD’s network includes 10 locations within the county: Avalon, Clairton, Flag Plaza (located downtown), Glassport, Harrison, Lawrenceville, Liberty, North Braddock, Parkway East (located in Wilkinsburg) and South Fayette. 

One or more of the following pollutants is measured at each site: Sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, PM10, PM2.5, and other air toxics. 

New for 2022? Continuous PM2.5 monitors to be located in Clairton and North Braddock (home to U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works and Edgar Thomson plant, respectively) as well as Harrison Township (near ATI and Harsco).

“The monitoring network is the source of all official data used to determine if Allegheny County is or is not complying with the NAAQS,” GASP Staff Attorney Ned Mulcahy explained. “But beyond that, the plan lays out other ‘special purpose’ monitoring projects meant to address specific concerns or threats to public health.”

One such special project proposed in the 2022 plan is an additional hydrogen sulfide monitoring station to be located in Clairton. For those who may not know: U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works is the largest emitter of H2S in not only Allegheny County but the entire state of Pennsylvania.

“We are glad to see additional H2S monitoring in the Mon Valley, which has seen more than its fair share of exceedances over the last few years,” GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini said. “H2S impacts people’s health and quality of life, and it’s well past time for the health department to get a handle on what’s causing the exceedances and how to stop them. Robust monitoring can only help with that endeavor.”

GASP will be submitting formal public comments indicating that, while we are supportive of the additional monitoring and other plan details, we do have transparency concerns.

“Federal regulations state that one objective of every monitoring network is to ‘[p]rovide air pollution data to the general public in a timely manner,’” Mulcahy explained. “After issues with ACHD’s air quality dashboard earlier this year and no clear explanation in the 2022 Plan regarding how some of the new monitoring data will be published, we’d like to see ACHD provide details on how and when that data will be conveyed to the public.”

Want to weigh in? Here’s what you need to know:

  • All correspondence must include first and last name and a complete mailing address. 
  • Comments may be submitted via e-mail to david.good@alleghenycounty.us or by mail to: Allegheny County Health Department Attention: David D. Good Air Quality Program 301 39th Street Pittsburgh, PA 15201 
  • Comments will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 9

Editor’s Note: Check back, this blog will be updated with a link to our public comments once they are submitted.

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  1. nick says:

    ACHD needs to shut down USS and Cheswick. In cost benefit analysis these polluters cost the taxpayers more than they contribute to the community.

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