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GASP to Board of Health: Time to Review & Adjust Mon Valley Episode Rule, Take Action on H2S is NOW

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

GASP joined residents and fellow advocates Wednesday to tell the Allegheny County Board of Health that October’s abysmal air quality is unacceptable and that action needs to be taken to adjust the Mon Valley Air Pollution Episode Rule and take enforcement action to stem the outrageous exceedances of Pennsylvania’s hydrogen sulfide standard.

For those who need a refresher, the air quality in the Mon Valley was REALLY bad last month. You can get the skinny on all that here.

Here is what our executive director told the board:

Good afternoon, I’m Patrick Campbell, the executive director of the Group Against Smog & Pollution.

October was a painful month when it came to air quality, especially for those in the Mon Valley or downwind of it. To its credit, Allegheny County Health Department did issue public alerts notifying residents about obscenely high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide at the Liberty monitor and issued both a Mon Valley Watch and Warning, which spanned four days.

Communication on these crucial public health matters equips residents with the knowledge they need to understand air pollution issues and how they can mitigate exposure to protect themselves and their families.

These notices and follow-up air quality reminders, while not perfect, were appreciated. GASP hopes ACHD will build on this, providing more responsive, frequent, and detailed alerts when poor air quality is forecast. GASP hopes ACHD will do more to address the pervasive H2S problem. Half of the days in October were marred by H2S exceedances. Because we know that inversions do NOT cause H2S emissions, we are calling on ACHD to take robust enforcement action against what does: U.S. Steel’s coking operations.

GASP also urges ACHD to take action now to review and amend the Mon Valley Air Pollution Episode Rule and its implementation to ensure it is working as intended. Of particular interest is how - and when - the department decides to issue a watch or warning and whether adjustments to that process are needed. For example: The threshold to trigger a Mon Valley Air Pollution Warning was reached as of 8 a.m. Oct. 11 and steadily increased throughout the day but a Warning was never issued.

We understand that the rule only requires a Warning to be issued if ACHD “has determined atmospheric conditions will continue” to contribute to a likely exceedance of the PM2.5 NAAQS. But considering the NAAQS for PM2.5 was exceeded Oct. 12, ACHD must answer these questions:

  1. Why wasn’t a warning issued?

  2. Had a warning been issued and industry polluters like U.S. Steel required to enact their mitigation plans and reduce emissions, could the exceedance have been avoided?

Thank you.

Editor's Note: Here is media coverage of the Board of Health meeting:

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