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What's That Smell? Advocates Say Allegheny County Not Doing Enough About Air Pollution

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Pollution and air quality continue to be a concern for many throughout Allegheny County.

Some environmentalists, as well as activists, say the county just isn't doing enough to improve air quality and that was the throughline at a town hall meeting on Wednesday.

Several of the speakers all made the same two claims:

  • That our region is one of the unhealthiest places to live in the United States.
  • Allegheny County isn't fully using the tools available to maximize enforcement and improve air quality.
  • One of those tools is Carnegie Mellon University's "Create Lab" and its "Smell PGH" app.

    It was designed to crowdsource reports from residents.

    Between January 3 and 8 alone, the app received more than 100 reports of foul odors in the county.

    Many described the air as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur.

    That smell is caused by an excess of hydrogen sulfide in the air and it's an issue the county has previously cited U.S. Steel for at the Clairton Coke Works.

    The technical lead of the Smell PGH app said you shouldn't ignore your sense of smell.

    "Research shows that the human nose can detect over one trillion different odors so if the air around you smells, you're experiencing a reaction to it, it's very likely that you're inhaling something harmful," he said.

    For its part, the county health department has said it's been extremely aggressive with enforcement and legal action against polluters.

    It has cited U.S. Steel for nine violations in just the past two years.

    They also said the Liberty Air Quality Monitor, which is about two miles from the coke works, has shown a decrease of 32-percent over the last 10 years when it comes to fine particulate pollution.

    However, environmental advocates have said they want more openness and information on the enforcement of regulations and prevention.

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