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Limited Opportunity: Want to Make a Difference in Local Air Quality? Learn to be a Smoke Reader

Updated: Mar 25

Even those of us who don’t live near or downwind of an industrial source of air pollution have at some point likely looked at emissions being belched from a facility and asked, “Is that even permitted?” 

You can learn the answer to that question and more at an upcoming smoke reading course. 

Not familiar with smoke reading? Then let’s take a step back to explain: “Smoke readers” is a general term for volunteers who are trained and certified to recognize and understand visible emissions from sources such as smokestacks, as well as what violations look like, and how to make reports. 

“Many are surprised to learn that this is the same training received by Allegheny County Visible Emissions Inspectors,” GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini noted. 

Our project manager Sue Seppi, a longtime smoke reader, said attending the training is very informative and an excellent way for citizens to take action in their own communities by reading visible emissions at the facilities that are of concern to them.

“The reality is local inspectors can’t be at every facility at all times,” she said. “Readings from volunteers who are trained and certified as smoke readers  may help increase regulatory scrutiny on air polluters.”

Sound like something you or someone you know would be interested in? Then we have good news for you: Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is covering the cost of the training put on by Eastern Technical Associates – but please know spots for this opportunity are extremely limited. 

Once your training is complete, the GASP team can pick up from there to get you started with actual observations in your community. The next two-day training is scheduled for late September.

The first session for new trainees is a live webinar held at 9 a.m. every Monday and Tuesday. 

Participants will spend the second session in the field on either Sept. 29 or Sept. 30. The field instruction registration begins at 8 a.m. and consists of multiple hourly field observation periods called runs. 

Complete one hourly observation successfully and you are done and will receive certification. Certification lasts six months.

You can get more details on the Eastern Technical Associates website or email for details.

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