Allegheny County Health Department on Tuesday announced it has launched a new dashboard dedicated to tracking hydrogen sulfide - a move that comes in the wake of recent calls from GASP for ACHD to better communicate issues related to the air pollutant prominent in the Mon Valley.
"This is the kind of information that we have been urging the Allegheny County Health Department to share with residents," GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell said. "Local folks - particularly those in the Mon Valley - have long had to deal with the health and quality of life impacts associated with high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide so we're hopeful that easier access to the data will help equip them with the information they need to help mitigate their exposure."
"We thank ACHD for the increased communication and transparency and encourage residents to check out the new resource."
Here’s what ACHD’s press release said:
In an effort to improve transparency and provide residents more information about the region’s air quality, the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) has launched a new dashboard dedicated to tracking hydrogen sulfide (H2S).
The dashboard, which was created in partnership with CountyStat, displays up-to-date information from the county’s two H2S monitoring sites located in North Braddock and Liberty. Other information on the webpage explains the state’s H2S regulations and what the Health Department’s Air Quality Program is doing to monitor and enforce Pennsylvania’s H2S standards.
The Allegheny County H2S Dashboard is available on the county’s website.
“We have made great strides in improving the region’s air quality over the past decade, with an 80 percent reduction in hazardous air pollutants including particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and ozone,” explained County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Although hydrogen sulfide does not pose the same health concerns as other emissions, it is still a nuisance to our residents in higher concentrations and needs to be addressed. The new H2S dashboard will add another layer of regulatory focus for this particular type of emission.”
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a colorless gas with a rotten egg-like smell. The most common sources of H2S are from industrial processes like oil and natural gas refineries, kraft paper production, coke ovens and tanneries. It is also released at sewage treatment facilities, landfills, as well as during bacterial breakdown of human and animal waste.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not have federal air quality standards for H2S.
Pennsylvania is one of a few states with a hydrogen sulfide regulation. In 1971, ACHD incorporated the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) H2S regulations into its Air Quality Rules and Regulations. The Air Quality Program enforces the Pennsylvania H2S odor control standard and has issued enforcement orders based on it.
“The smell associated with H2S has long been a concern for Allegheny County residents,” said ACHD Acting Director Patrick Dowd. “Hourly H2S readings have been available on the department’s website for years, but creating this dashboard allows for the data to be understood in a much more straightforward and discernable way.”
Many H2S emissions are fugitive, meaning they are released at non-specific points during an industrial process and cannot be easily traced. The ACHD’s Air Quality Program has sought enforcement actions against H2S emitters in the past and will continue to do so, if facilities are found in violation of the commonwealth’s H2S standard.
In 2022, to better understand H2S and where it is originating from in the county, the Health Department authored a study entitled Analysis and Attribution of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) Exceedances at the Liberty Monitoring Site from January 1, 2020 through March 1, 2022. This study looked at data from its permanent H2S monitors and portable H2S sensors, weather conditions, emissions inventory statements from facilities, and how these factors were used to determine the source of H2S exceedances.
“The Allegheny County Health Department is committed to improving the air quality our residents breathe on a daily basis, whether it be for health or odor purposes,” remarked Dowd. “This new dashboard is another step in that direction.”
For more than 54 years, the Group Against Smog and Pollution has worked to keep both industrial polluters and the public agencies charged with regulating them accountable. We take that watchdog role seriously: GASP monitors local enforcement actions and appeals, reviews air quality data, regulations, and permits and we put it all on the record in the form of press releases, public statements, blogs like this one, and social media posts that keep you informed (and that gets stuff done). But this work takes considerable resources. Can you make a $7 donation today to help us keep on keepin’ on with the watchdoggin’?