Posts Tagged ‘air’

We’re Number One?

Photo courtesy of the LOC

So Pittsburgh beat Los Angeles yesterday…

…and no, not in sports.

According to the latest American Lung Association report – “State of the Air 2008” – that determines the nation’s most polluted cities, Pittsburgh has been named the “sootiest in the nation.”

Wow, what an honor.

What is this, the 1970s all over again?

The category Pittsburgh claimed top spot in measures short-term particle pollution, or ‘soot.’ However, Janice Nolan, the assistant vice president of national policy and advocacy for the ALA, said that “it’s not that Pittsburgh has gotten worse; it’s that Los Angeles has gotten better.”

Small comfort, that.

Oh, and she said that “if the trend continues, Pittsburgh will top two lists, and LA will only be leading the nation in ozone.”

I see. So if the Steel City just keeps status quo, then we can’t make fun of LA-ites any more for being smoggy people. Great. Not to mention that everyone else in the country will revert back to the post-70’s assumption that Pittsburgh was a dirty, polluted city.

Guillermo Cole, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department, told the Post-Gazette that Pittsburgh didn’t deserve the ranking as the high soot readings come primarily from emissions from U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works. “The fact of the matter is that the ranking only applies accurately to the Liberty-Clairton area, and Pittsburgh, the rest of the county and the surrounding counties have much better air,” Mr. Cole said. “Liberty-Clairton is a unique situation. We have a large source, the coke works, sitting in a river valley, so it’s a real challenge. There’s no other area of the U.S. like that.”

The Liberty-Clairton area does not meet federal air quality standards for soot by far, but neither does the surrounding five-county metropolitan area – though soot levels are lower. Plans are in place, however, to improve the city’s overall air quality, especially for the Coke Works.

U.S. Steel has a $1B upgrade in the works for the site which will put the Liberty-Clairton area into attainment by 2015. The rest of the region should hit attainment by 2010.

Even if the area surrounding the Coke Works was removed from the data, Pittsburgh would still rank in the Top Twenty – 16th, to be exact.

So while the news is indeed hard to swallow, remember this: in traffic and commute, Pittsburgh is the fifth BEST city; L.A. is the ninth WORST. And when it comes right down to it, Pittsburghers get more quality time at home and not lodged on the Parkway inhaling exhaust. (Well, except when the “tunnel monster” is running loose.)

Commute vs. pollution? Yeah, I think Western PA wins that round.

Blast furnaces and iron ore at the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation mills, Etna, Pennsylvania (LOC), courtesy of The Library of Congress

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