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  • Writer's pictureQiyam Ansari

After Days of High Air Pollution, Mon Valley Residents Urge Action

(Clairton) - Mon Valley residents in Valley Clean Air Now (VCAN) are urging industry and government to take action to help the community following days of poor air quality since last Friday. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a Code Orange Air Quality Action Day alert for the Liberty-Clairton area for four days in a row, and state and federal air quality standards were violated on multiple days since last Friday, November 5.

Cindy Meckel, a Glassport resident, and VCAN Steering Committee member stated, “When action days are issued, it’s like a free day for US Steel so they can dump more deadly garbage in the air. The flares are going non-stop, your eyes burn, your throat burns and any more exercise beyond walking to your car is horrible. There should be tougher restrictions for the mills on those days. How can our elected leaders ignore these issues?”

An Air Quality Action Day is declared when the AQI is forecasted to be Code Orange or higher. On an Air Quality Action Day, young children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems, such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis, are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution and should limit outdoor activities. U.S. Steel Clairton Coke Works continues to spew chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and fine particulates into the air, leading to increased prevalence of asthma, cardiovascular problems, and cancer in area residents.

Valley Clean Air Now is urging the following actions:

  • US Steel needs to do more to reduce pollution, especially on Air Quality Action Days. It is not acceptable for the community to have to suffer frequent weeks of dangerous air pollution episodes.

  • Allegheny County needs to do a better job of reaching residents with warnings about poor air quality.

  • Allegheny County also needs to fund programs to provide at-risk residents with portable air cleaners in their homes so they can be protected from dangerous air pollution levels.

“Warnings are no good if folks can’t breathe in their homes,” said Art Thomas, a Clairton resident on VCAN’s Steering Committee. VCAN is seeking to raise money to educate and protect the most at-risk residents from harmful air pollution by installing home portable air cleaners. VCAN’s goal for 2022 is to serve 900-1,100 residents from Clairton and surrounding municipalities.

The program will prioritize residents who have previously existing health conditions, especially respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Our first goal is to educate residents on their air quality to make informed decisions on what's good for their health. Our second goal is to install air purifiers in bedrooms and common areas and collect data on how this improves residents’ quality of life. VCAN raised funds in 2020 to provide home air cleaners to only 150 of over 700 Clairton residents who applied and are currently seeking funding to provide this needed service in the Mon Valley.

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