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Sat, Sep 30



College Students | Experiential Learning in Clairton - Air Quality & Smoke Reading

Join GASP and the Univeristy of Pittsburgh Honors College for a trip to the Monongahela (”Mon”) Valley town of Clairton, where the Clairton Coke Works still operates. Learn about air quality, speak with residents, and learn about “reading” visible emissions from factories.

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College Students | Experiential Learning in Clairton - Air Quality & Smoke Reading
College Students | Experiential Learning in Clairton - Air Quality & Smoke Reading

Time & Location

Sep 30, 2023, 9:45 AM – 1:30 PM

Clairton, Clairton, PA, USA

About the event

NOTE: This event is only open to current college students. Bus pick-up and drop-off location in Oakland will be shared with registered participants.

About 15 miles from Pittsburgh, along the Monongahela River, the City of Clairton is one of the few remaining "Mon Valley" towns with an active coke works. While our region's rivers are no longer lined with smoky factories, the ones that remain have a significant impact on local air quality, especially for residents living closest to the plants.

For many reasons, Clairton is often at the center of the conversation when it comes to regional air quality and enviromental justice, but a lot of Pittsburghers have never seen the sprawling coke works or visited the community. During this Saturday morning field trip, we'll take a quick visit to the town to view the facility* and learn more about its role in local air quality. 

Many air quality regulations are based on plume opacity - that's where smoke reading comes in. The county health department's Air Quality Program staff often attend Smoke School to learn how to evaluate plumes.  Now, you can become familiar with those skills, too, and learn how resident smoke readers can be air quality advocates.

“Smoke reading is a great way for residents to take action in their own communities by observing the facilities that are of concern to them,” GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell said. “Observations by our volunteers increase regulatory scrutiny on polluters, as government inspectors can’t be at every facility at all times.”

Pitt Honors College students can receive 20 points towards the Civic and Social Engagement category and 20 points towards the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion category for attending the Smoke Reading Field Trip.

Want to learn more before the trip? Here's our overview about Clairton Coke Works and links to some of our coverage over the past few years. Also, a couple years ago a Public Source journalist and photographer, Quinn Glabicki, published an interesting photo essay about Clairton - find that here.

*We'll be viewing the coke works from outside the facility property - this is not a factory tour but instead an opportunity to learn about smoke reading and the facility's impact on air quality and environmental justice.


  • 15 minutes

    Bus pick up in Oakland

  • 3 hours 30 minutes

    Field trip to Clairton (including drive there and back)


  • Trip (incl. transportation)

    Participants must arrive at the pick-up location between 9:45AM and 10AM (at the latest) to join the field trip.

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