I often think of the classic scene in Catch 22 where Yossarian thinks he has saved Snowden by putting a tourniquet around his thigh, only to open his jumpsuit and find his guts pouring out under is armpits. In this context it came to mind comparing my daily concerns about recycling and driving my car after reading this article in the PG about Pittsburgh air quality. A CMU professor generated maps that identified 70 sites from the Shenago coke works on Neville Island to the Heidelberg-Carnegie area close to Route 79 to the East Busway in Oakland with unexpectedly higher pollution levels.
95 percent of the United States complies with the EPA’s standards, set in 2012, for fine particulate matter, a type of air pollution known to cause premature death but Allegheny County is part of the 5% that is out of compliance. What can we do?
Get familiar with NACAA, the national, non-partisan, non-profit association of air pollution control agencies that encourages the exchange of information communication and cooperation among federal, state, and local regulatory agencies. Join The Breathe Project, a coalition of residents, businesses, government and many other groups in southwestern Pennsylvania whose mission is to promote a collective understanding and vision to improve our region’s air quality. Start with the their absolutely fascinating BreateCam and invest in ways that support all of their recommendations:
(1) Every reasonable step should be taken to ensure the largest local industrial air pollution sources are subject to stringent emissions controls and are not in violation of their permits. “Pay to pollute” is not a viable way to regulate facilities with violations.
(2) A comprehensive plan to reduce diesel emissions should be developed and various strategies should be employed to decrease their contribution to the problem. These efforts should include idling law enforcement, adoption of clean construction policies and retrofit/replacement projects. We should emulate some of the institutions in Pittsburgh that already have taken the lead to accomplish these goals.
(3) Mass transit, bike lanes and carpooling should continue to be incentivized.
(4) Laws on wood burning should be strengthened and enforced. There is no reason why entire portions of neighborhoods should be smoked out by a handful of wood burners whose emissions infiltrate into others’ homes and make yards virtually uninhabitable.
(5) Inventories should be conducted in the neighborhoods, schools and parks where we and our children live, work and play to assess their air pollution burden and contributing factors. With this information, steps should be taken to reduce sources within their control and to demand that regulators work harder and faster to clean up those sources outside of residents’ control.