U.S. CitiesCity-Data Forum Index
Go Back   City-Data Forum > U.S. Forums > Pennsylvania > Pittsburgh
 [Register]
Please register to participate in our discussions with 1.5 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
Jump to a detailed profile or search
site with Google Custom Search

Search Forums  (Advanced)
Business Search - 14 Million verified businesses
Search for:  near: 
Reply Start New Thread
 
Old 11-22-2009, 12:09 PM
 
357 posts, read 996,406 times
Reputation: 173

Advertisements

Quote:
In 2008, the American Lung Association ranked the Pittsburgh area as the nation's third most polluted metropolitan area, behind Los Angeles and Bakersfield, CA.[70] This ranking is disputed by the Allegheny County Health Department, since data from only one of Pittsburgh's 20 air quality monitors were used by the ALA. Furthermore, the monitor used is located downwind of U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works, the nation's largest coke plant.[71]
In 2009, Pittsburgh was named most livable city in the United States and 29th-most-livable city worldwide by The Economist.
how can this be? with all the rain and how small pittsburgh is compared to LA.. What gives?
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message

 
Old 11-22-2009, 01:09 PM
 
Location: Under Mount Doom
9,248 posts, read 6,125,547 times
Reputation: 4747
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bench Warmer View Post
how can this be? with all the rain and how small pittsburgh is compared to LA.. What gives?

Hi Bench Warmer,

I have heard the this ranking comes from one of the sensors being right downwind of a coke-burning smoke stack. So, many feel it was unfair.

However, I did recently talk with a fellow, Dr. Conrad Volz, Professor of Environmental Health at University of Pittsburgh, who said that the Governor, Ed Rendell is pretty gung-ho about coal-fired powerplants, and many are downstream (but upwind) in the Ohio River Valley. So, obviously only so much pollution can come from the city, but quite a bit more accumulates from the industry upwind in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and W. PA. It seems that such sites would have a larger effect on Pittsburgh than other sites further east across the mountains. Although the stats and no. 3 ranking might be erroneous, I gathered from Dr. Volz that is it not a trivial concern. I would agree that with all the rainy days, which should clear the air, the absolute amount of pollution being produced must be large to keep the air dirty. The rivers also have issues with industrial wastes and toxins in accumulating in sediments and long-lived predaceous fish. So, although most here will point out the tremendous transformation from the extremely polluted times of the past, there still seems to be work to be done.

Last edited by Fiddlehead; 11-22-2009 at 01:35 PM..
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 11-22-2009, 01:22 PM
 
20,274 posts, read 18,901,765 times
Reputation: 2827
To summarize a complex topic, in most parts of the Metro Area that #3 ranking is not accurately reflective of our relative air quality. That said, in isolated areas there is in fact a serious problem, and while overall our air quality is about average for a city of our size, we nonetheless should be working toward doing better. And we are doing some things along those lines, but we could be doing more.

So I don't want to downplay the importance of addressing these issues. The overall ranking is, however, misleading.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 11-22-2009, 04:06 PM
Status: "60th anniversary of the polio vaccine! Hail to Pitt!" (set 12 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
70,066 posts, read 60,674,394 times
Reputation: 20204
I would take the word of the Allegheny CO Health Dept over the guy from Pitt. Blaming Indiana, almost 300 miles away, let alone Illinois, another 150 miles west (from google maps), is a bit of a stretch. The air pollution from those states would be pretty dispersed by the time it reached Pittsburgh. Ohio? Maybe the far eastern part. Western Pennsylvania? Most of W PA is in the Pittsburgh metro area, certainly Beaver County, which goes all the way to Ohio is part of the MSA. W. VA? Again, a maybe.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 11-22-2009, 06:02 PM
 
Location: Under Mount Doom
9,248 posts, read 6,125,547 times
Reputation: 4747
Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
I would take the word of the Allegheny CO Health Dept over the guy from Pitt. Blaming Indiana, almost 300 miles away, let alone Illinois, another 150 miles west (from google maps), is a bit of a stretch. The air pollution from those states would be pretty dispersed by the time it reached Pittsburgh. Ohio? Maybe the far eastern part. Western Pennsylvania? Most of W PA is in the Pittsburgh metro area, certainly Beaver County, which goes all the way to Ohio is part of the MSA. W. VA? Again, a maybe.

I beg to differ. Dr. Volz is an expert on environmental health. I came away feeling he really loves the area, but has a rather sober and very informed view of its environmental challenges. Pollution can move and accumulate in interesting and nonintuitive ways. I work with national parks that are almost all affected by advected pollution from off-site sources. For example, Sequoia National Park in California is strongly affected by pollution from the California Bay Area with is nearly 200 miles north and west. The Bay Area generally has good air quality for the opposite reason, coastal winds whisk it rapidly east and south. What matters is where pollution moves, encounters barriers, and accumulates. Areas like Pittsburgh that are backed by mountains are sites of accumulation whether or not they produced the pollution in the airshed. I don't want to oversimplify here, or choose one source over another, just to say that accumulating pollution is very well known in many areas. And in this regard, geography is not fair. Some people pollute without feeling its consequences,while other comparatively blameless parties often must deal with those consequences.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 11-22-2009, 06:35 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh
1,137 posts, read 1,776,387 times
Reputation: 1097
I have no idea where it comes from and could not form a scientific opinon on it to save my life, but I do know that the air here does not smell good. When I go on vacation, I can tell I'm out of Pittsburgh because I can finally breath and the air actually smells good.

For some reason, the air seems thinner here and it has nothing to do with the elevation of the city. It's certainly not like it was here years ago with all the soot and dirty air (or so I'm told since I did not grow up here). The air looks clear to me, but it certainly doesn't smell good. Must be some good reason for it.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 11-23-2009, 07:18 PM
 
24 posts, read 44,651 times
Reputation: 23
I addressed this at length a few months back in this thread addressing the previous year's American Lung Association report.

I'm reposting below (with links properly formatted this time).

Quote:
Originally Posted by kramhorse View Post
I don't know where people are getting their information from. This conclusion wasn't based on "one monitor by a coke plant in Clairton" it was based on every air monitor in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System (http://lungaction.org/reports/sota07_methodology.html - broken link). In Allegheny County (where Pittsburgh is located) that system includes 8 separate monitor sites (yes, one of them is at Clairton, based on EPA regulatory requirements for the placement of air monitors). The county air report I linked above also shows that in 2007 every one of these 8 monitor sites recorded days where particulate matter levels exceeded EPA's maximum health-based standards. Every monitor site in Allegheny County has recorded a problem!

If you still want to say that Clairton is skewing the results, consider this:
"Kevin Stewart, director of environmental health for the American Lung Association of Pennsylvania, said he understands Pittsburgh's frustration with the No. 1 ranking, but even if the Liberty-Clairton area is removed from the calculations, the metropolitan area would still rank 16th worst out of 222 metropolitan areas covered in the report." [source]
And what if every metropolitan area was given the luxury of removing their worst performing monitor? Then we'd be right back at the top of the list.

Several commenters in this forum have suggested there's some sort of shadowy conspiracy to portray Pittsburgh's air quality as worse than it is. Ignoring how difficult it would be to manipulate official EPA data from official monitoring sites, why would anyone want to do that? What would they have to gain? And even if environmentalists were that scheming, what makes Pittsburgh environmentalists so special that they can skew air quality results while environmentalists in other metropolitan areas can't?

I'd ask you all to look at the facts and make up your own minds rather than relying on a few grossly misinformed individuals efforts to discredit the study. The entire study, including a description of data sources and methodology is available here (http://lungaction.org/reports/stateoftheair2007.html - broken link).
To address a few other points brought up in the present thread:
1. Despite being smaller than LA, Pittsburgh is affected by many large sources of particulate matter pollution. We've got a lot more coal power plants, steel mills, and coke ovens than you'll find in LA.
2. There's some truth to the statement that part of our problem results from out of state pollution (though local industry would have you believe all of our local air pollution is someone else's fault). Allegheny County has a monitor in South Fayette that is sited to measure "background" particle pollution (i.e particulate matter concentrations largely unaffected by local sources.) That monitor typically measures around 13 ug/m3 before local sources tack on another 2-6 ug/m3 (see p.4 of this PDF). (The EPA annual health-based standard is 15 ug/m3).
3. Despite what I said in #2, the background concentrations from out of state play a very small role in the reason our air ranks so poorly in air quality reports: short term particle pollution i.e. large, 24-hour spikes in PM concentrations. Short-term spikes are influenced almost entirely by local sources and local meteorology (e.g. air inversions).
Quote:
"in addition to the regional air quality problem, there is a localized air quality issue in the local sources and the specific geologic and meteorological features of the area. Large industry located along the river sides in the valley. The sharp difference in elevation between the industrial and residential areas and the high hillsides surrounding them create a significant river basin, and spikes in localized PM2.5 concentrations coincide with temperature inversions. "
from pp 6-7 of this gigantic PDF.

My guess is that the air smells most foul when an air inversion is in effect. I often notice a sulfur smell around 6-9am or perhaps a bit earlier (if I'm awake). That time frame is when air inversions are most likely to occur.

Last edited by kramhorse; 11-23-2009 at 07:30 PM.. Reason: typos, perfectionism/neurosis
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 11-23-2009, 07:37 PM
 
Location: Under Mount Doom
9,248 posts, read 6,125,547 times
Reputation: 4747
Quote:
Originally Posted by kramhorse View Post
My guess is that the air smells most foul when an air inversion is in effect. I often notice a sulfur smell around 6-9am or perhaps a bit earlier (if I'm awake). That time frame is when air inversions are most likely to occur.

Very informative post!

I was wondering about whether it might be sulfurous compounds. We have had many complaints about the smell of timber pulp mills in the Pacific Northwest. I believe it is because sulfuric acid is used as part of the digestion process for converting wood to pulp and paper. It is quite pungent and unpleasant, when you are directly downwind from the stacks.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 11-23-2009, 10:37 PM
 
Location: Just Outside of Chicagoland
77 posts, read 178,061 times
Reputation: 45
That guy from Pitt makes no sense. If the bad air was from Illinois, Indiana, or Ohio wouldnt cities in those sates be more polluted then Pittsburgh?
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
 
Old 11-23-2009, 10:40 PM
 
Location: Under Mount Doom
9,248 posts, read 6,125,547 times
Reputation: 4747
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattm93 View Post
That guy from Pitt makes no sense. If the bad air was from Illinois, Indiana, or Ohio wouldnt cities in those sates be more polluted then Pittsburgh?

No. Read my long-winded post above on just this topic.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.


Reply
Please update this thread with any new information or opinions. This open thread is still read by thousands of people, so we encourage all additional points of view.

Quick Reply
Message:


Options
X
Data:
Loading data...
Based on 2000-2011 data
Loading data...

123
Hide US histogram

Over $84,000 in prizes was already given out to active posters on our forum and additional giveaways are planned!

Go Back   City-Data Forum > U.S. Forums > Pennsylvania > Pittsburgh
Similar Threads

All times are GMT -6.

2005-2014, Advameg, Inc.

City-Data.com - Archive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 - Top