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  • Writer's pictureValley Clean Air Now

Valley Clean Air Now Community BBQ: Thursday, May 25 @ 6 pm. Clairton Park Shelter 3

Updated: May 17, 2023

It's been three years since we've had an in-person event. Come join us May 25. Call Tom Bailey, VCAN Secretary, weekdays 9am -4pm for more information. 412.614.0227.

Here is our Community Newsletter: VCAN Programs of 2023, VCAN Updates and upcoming VCAN Events. These were written by our Steering Committee Chairperson Qiyam Ansari.

Programs of 2023

EPA Air Monitoring

  • We want to hold public powers and private companies accountable for their responsibilities to uphold environmental protections. To do that, we hope to establish 12 new monitoring sites through the Mon Valley to collect better data on air quality and raise awareness with residents on how the reading affects them.

Air Filter Program

  • Improve residents' health, quality of life, and understanding of air pollution impacts by installing portable air cleaners for 300 residents in Clairton and adjacent municipalities.

Low-Cost Filter Design, Testing and Initial Production

  • VCAN will lead a project to test, design and facilitate production of very low-cost air filters suitable for large-scale production. During the first year, we hope to numerically evaluate the efficacy of such filters and also develop cost models to project their cost in quantity.

Community Health Assessment

  • There is widespread concern among community members in VCAN that outdoor air pollution is contributing to poor health outcomes in residents. VCAN is working on a community health assessment pilot project to assess the prevalence of specific health outcomes in Mon Valley residents.

Advocacy and Education Design for Deployment

  • VCAN will collaborate with CMU Design students to create new advocacy and design materials suitable for public engagement around air quality—not only to explain the harms of the poor air quality that we face, but also to concretely suggest specific ways in which residents can respond to these harms.

Quantification of Air Quality Harm

  • An important, missing part of the story is an economic quantification of the dollar-harm done by poor air in our region—to students, to families, to residents; and to the communities as a whole. VCAN will lead a project engaging with Nick Muller and others in our research community to develop cost models that can be used to show the economic and monetary harm of bad air with clear metrics and numbers that are undeniable.

Valley Clean Air Now (VCAN) Updates

1. VCAN has begun to incorporate into a 501-C3 working with Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services. This partnership offers an opportunity to grow the capacity of VCAN and to stabilize the board positions and grant opportunities.

2. VCAN in partnership with Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Create Lab or Carnegie Mellon University has deployed Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) monitors in the Mon Valley. These monitors have recorded levels of benzene three times the legal limit. VCAN has met with Jefferson Hills Council, Glassport Council, Port Vue Council to inform them of the benzene being a known carcinogen which causes cancer. VCAN will work to meet with the Borough Councils of Lincoln, Liberty and Clairton as well.

Call to Action. If you are a resident of either Lincoln or Liberty Boroughs and would be willing to speak to your Borough Council about these benzene levels with representatives of EIP and Create Labs, please call Tom Bailey at 412.614.0227 or email us at

3. On May 2, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3 Director Adam Ortiz met with VCAN Steering Committee members and other community members outside the Clairton Coke Works (CCW) to learn more about what has been happening in the Mon Valley after recent pressure from VCAN and partners. Although Director Ortiz was in Clairton and Braddock to speak to the community, there were no promises made for any action. EIP and Create Labs as sent a third letter to EPA Region 3 Director Ortiz with even worse readings.

As a follow-up to the visit, a letter is being sent to EPA Region 3 Director Ortiz urging EPA to take a more significant role and concrete steps to better protect the health and safety of Mon Valley residents. Environmental advocates are calling on the EPA to become the lead agency in enforcing air pollution rules, as they believe Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is no longer seen as having the resources, will, or leadership to ensure that U.S. Steel complies with local, state, and federal air pollution laws and regulations.

The letter specifically requests that:

  • EPA takes immediate steps to fully inspect U.S. Steel facilities in the Mon Valley and ensure that emission sources and practices that endanger the public health of nearby residents are stopped. EPA requires fenceline monitoring systems around U.S. Steel facilities in the Mon Valley that can detect the full range of contaminants being emitted by U.S. Steel. The data from fenceline monitoring should be accessible to the public in real time. Recent findings of high benzene levels found in households near U.S. Steel highlight the need for the EPA to act swiftly.

  • EPA fully supports the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) efforts to conduct a Public Health Assessment of U.S. Steel's impact on nearby residents. All data that EPA has access to, or has requested from U.S. Steel, should be included in ATSDR's assessment. The EPA should review the final assessment and take action on recommendations contained in the assessment.

  • EPA uses its permitting oversight to ensure that U.S. Steel's Title V permits will ensure the company complies with all existing requirements. Environmental advocates are urging the EPA to put a hold on current assessments of Allegheny County's attainment of the current PM2.5 ambient air standards while EPA is working to establish new standards this year.

  • EPA should seriously consider supporting the diverse health, well-being, and safety needs of frontline communities by directly supporting them. Local governments, regulators. and polluters have used funds obtained through fees on expenses that are not remotely related to environmental issues.

ATSDR has accepted VCAN's petition for a Health Assessment in the Mon Valley, ATSDR has met with VCAN to begin to plan community outreach and attended the meeting with EPA Region 3 Director Ortiz on May 2.

ATSDR is doing a Soil Sampling workshop in Braddock in May, and will work with VCAN to do one in Clairton in July. VCAN has also sent letters of support to local municipal leaders and state leaders in an attempt to gain support for the ACHD's Clean Air Fund. VCAN will apply for funding to continue its air filter program and expand it to the Mon Valley. VCAN has also started to outline an Air Quality Program outline.

"What goes up in the air, must come down." – Art Thomas, VCAN Steering Committee member

Upcoming VCAN Events

May 25th BBQ at 6 pm, Clairton Park Shelter #3

June 6th Lobby Day in Harrisburg

June 13th VCAN Members Public Comment to Clairton City Council

June 22 VCAN Community Meeting at 6 pm, Community Economic Development Corporation Clairton Building, 282 St. Clair Avenue, Clairton, PA 15025. First Community Meeting in the CEDCC Building!

Closing Statement

For more information on items within this blog post, email us at Call Tom Bailey, Steering Committee Secretary, at 412.614.0227. Email us if you do not want to receive future emails from VCAN. Leave a comment as feedback below this post.

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