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Air Quality 101: Smell Something? Say Something!

Updated: Feb 21

Take a deep breath. Smell something acrid or chemical? How about the odor of rotten eggs? Then report it!

While the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (more commonly referred to as DEP) regulates air quality in the Keystone State, Allegheny and Philadelphia Counties do things a little differently. Instead of being regulated by DEP, air-quality issues are instead handled by local regulatory agencies.

Here in Allegheny County, air quality is regulated by the Allegheny County Health Department (sometimes called ACHD for short).

This means that if you live INSIDE Allegheny County and you smell a foul odor, you may report it by contacting the ACHD. To report a foul odor you can call 412-687-ACHD, or you can file a complaint online.

Folks in Allegheny County may also utilize an app developed by the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University known as Smell PGH to report a foul odor to the health department. When you utilize the app—which crowd sources smell reports so they can track how air pollution travels across the city—it sends your air quality complaint directly to the ACHD.

Please note: If you smell natural gas or otherwise have an air quality emergency, it’s always best to contact the health department directly.

The app also allows users to see a map containing the locations of all other air quality complaints lodged that day.

Live outside of Allegheny County? Foul odors outside the county need to be reported to DEP. You can do this by calling 412-442-4184, or you may file a complaint online.

Pro tip: When making an air quality complaint with either the Allegheny County Health Department or DEP, remember: The devil is in the details! Please be as specific as possible.

Remember to include key information such as:

  1. The time you noticed the odor

  2. Your location (both neighborhood and zip code, please!)

  3. A brief description of the odor or smoke

Please know that while making air quality complaints to environmental regulators is a great first step, there are other things you can do to make your voice heard on air quality issues.

The second and third calls after your initial air quality complaint should be to your representatives in the state House and Senate. Not sure who represents you? No worries. Visit the Pennsylvania General Assembly website, type in your address, and it will give you the contact information on your state representative and senator.

Still want to do more to fight for clean air? You can volunteermake a donation, sign up to be a Smoke Reader, or become a member of GASP!

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