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Tuesday Marked First Hydrogen Sulfide Exceedance of the Year for Allegheny County

Well, that didn’t take long: The first exceedance of Pennsylvania’s 24-hour average hydrogen sulfide (H2S) standard is already in the books. 

Concentrations of H2S (known by its distinct rotten egg stench) exceeded the state’s 24-hour average standard Wednesday at Allegheny County Health Department’s air quality monitor in Liberty Borough, according to preliminary data.

Last year, H2S concentrations at the Liberty monitor exceeded Pennsylvania’s 24-hour average standard 54 times – which was more than two times 2020’s numbers. There were 18 other such exceedances at Allegheny County Health Department’s air quality monitor in North Braddock Borough.

Despite the regular occurrence of these exceedances, the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) was largely silent on the issue. While it issued an H2S-related enforcement action against U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works in April (and an associated press release), no further information has been provided – not on the action specifically or the H2S problem in general.

“It’s a new year, and we hope that the health department takes a new approach to how it deals with public communications around air quality issues like this one,” GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell said. “Residents deal with poor air quality regularly and they rightly are looking to their public health officials for information and alerts when they see the Air Quality Index creeping into unhealthy levels and when they smell that awful stench.”

He continued:

“The silence on the part of Allegheny County Health Department is a true shame. Residents tell us that ACHD’s silence on these issues makes them feel unseen and unheard. The silence is being taken as apathy.” 

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