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Join GASP for a Free Presentation Addressing the Emissions You See in Your Community (and What to Do

Have you ever seen a cloud of smoke or dust in the air that appears to be coming from an industrial facility or construction site and thought to yourself, “That can’t be good…Is that even legal?”

If so, welcome to the club. That combination of concern and curiosity led to local residents forming GASP more than 50 years ago.

In fact, some of the same techniques developed in the 1970s to assess airborne emissions are still used today. If you would like to know more about how to assess plumes of smoke and dust as well as what you as concerned citizens can do to help regulatory agencies hold polluters accountable, please join GASP staff at 1 p.m. Aug. 12 for a presentation discussing these issues.

You can register online here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Visible Emissions

There are too many ways to count how pollutants enter our atmosphere. A whole host of monitoring techniques and calculations are necessary to figure out if a pollution source such as a stack with emissions or a property creating a dust storm is complying with environmental regulations. Visible emission monitoring can help answer the question.

At the same time, air quality regulations and all individual facility air quality permits include limits on visible emissions. These emissions are often measured via their opacity, which can be estimated by the degree to which light transmission through the diameter of a plume is reduced.

Anyone familiar with the history of the Pittsburgh region has heard stories of days long ago when the air pollution was so bad it blocked out the sun. While those days are behind us, facilities still have intermittent periods where visible emissions occur. When they do, it isn’t always immediately clear if those emissions violate local regulations or the facility’s permit.

How Smoke Readers Make a Difference in Their Communities

In this presentation, GASP staff will discuss some of the methods that are used to analyze visible emissions. We won’t be training you to be certified “smoke readers” but by the end of the presentation, you’ll be more familiar with the concepts, which will enable you to submit complaints using characterizations like the opacity and presence or absence of steam in a plume.

You’ll also learn about some visible emissions standards and how to contact the Allegheny County Health Department or Department of Environmental Protection when you believe you’ve observed a violation.

Finally, we’ll discuss information about visible emission methods and limits specific to some sites. Both local regulations and site permits are all public records. We’ll give you an overview of how to find the visible emission limits that apply specifically to facilities in your community.

So please, join GASP for this important presentation. Our project manager Sue Seppi (who has been a certified smoke reader for 17 years) will lead the presentation and answer your questions. We look forward to seeing you there!

Editor’s Note: Questions or concerns? Feel free to drop a line to Sue. Her email address is

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