Friday, May 02, 2008

*Cough* *Cough* *Hack* *Snort* N'at

Well, it seems once again that Pittsburgh gets placed on the top of one of those lists that no one ever wants to be placed on... and I'm not referring to the TMZ "Whoops: Crotch!" list this time. No, as they reported the other day, we're once again #1 in poor air quality. From the Pittsburgh Business Times:

Pittsburgh has traded in steel and smokestacks for high tech and health care, but the city fared poorly in a new pollution study.

Pittsburgh ranked No. 1 in the American Lung Association's "Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution."
Now, admittedly, the air up there ain't the greatest, but it's hardly this anymore:

Of course, that doesn't stop the media from thinking that all of a sudden it's unsafe to go out side with a white shirt on:

From Reuters UK: Pittsburgh, a former steel-making center once known for its sooty skies, is the worst U.S. city for short-term particle pollution...

From ABC News: Pittsburgh, America's "Steel City," snagged a second designation — albeit a negative one — this week when, for the first time, the American Lung Association designated it the most air-polluted U.S. city...

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: The ranking isn't good news for a Rust Belt city trying to show that it's no longer a steel town , there are no working steel mills within city limits anymore , but a vibrant metropolis with world-class high-tech, education and medical facilities.

And so on.

Not to minimize the seriousness of the Air Quality Problem in the region, but I'm sick of the meme* that says it's still 1892 in Pittsburgh and that Carnegie and Frick are moments away from bringing in more Pinkerton guards. There is (barely) any steel here anymore people! Our largest edifice to the Bessemer Process is just about to be capped with 12 giant letters as an advertisement for Pittsburgh's true industry: biomedical research and hastily filled out HMO paperwork.

Again, it's that image problem that we've never been able to fucking shake.**

This whole thing has gone on long enough and drastic action is therefore necessary: I propose that every time a news media outlet mentions Pittsburgh as a former Steel City or former Smokey City (outside of a purely historical context) the Allegheny Conference on Community Development must shoot a puppy.

It's the only way the world is going to take us seriously short of blowing up the Moon -- and I think that the ACCD is just evil enough to make it work.

* Cf. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and not any of those "Name Three Things About Yourself" or "LOLCat" emails that have been filling up my inbox.

** It doesn't help, of course, that the nationally recognized sports team is an homage to this industry and provides a convenient excuse for lazy sports producers to edit in stock footage of giant ladles pouring molten steel into vats.


Bram Reichbaum said...

Speaking of drastic action, is there a way to do the obvious thing? Muster all appropriate regional resources in taking direct action to remedy the Clairton Coke Works situation?

Surely, if we can expect to bring it into "compliance" in about a decade's time, we can make it the tits closer to now.

Anonymous said...

Here's the reality. US Steel has already announced and is moving ahead with a 1.2B investment to rebuild and clean up the coke batteries at Clairton, which will certainly improve the air quality and be in compliance with EPA standards. ALA still won't be happy with the coke works and will continue to use Pittsburgh as a whipping boy to continue its fundraising efforts. The old imagery is just too juicy to pass up. The reality is that over 80% of the particulate matter measured in the SWPA region (including Clairton) emanates from sources in Ohio, Indiana and West of Pennsylvania (CMU study). The ALA uses only the Clairton monitor in its calculations. Also, there is no standard in ALA calculations as to the distance from the compliance monitors to the source. The data shows that the Clairton monitor is closer to the stacks at Clairton than any monitor to any source in the country. No wonder it picks up more particulate. Oh, by the way, in Los Angeles, the #2 city, the monitor is also very close to the source. Maybe the rankings are really more about distance to the source than they are about which city/region really has the most PM 2.5 particulate.

The Pittsburgh region has come farther and faster in addressing its environment than any region in the country, if not the world. We would also be #1 in that ranking.

I like clean air and want everyone in SWPA to breath clean air. So do the businesses and residents of SWPA. So does the ALA. Why don't we put all the facts on the table and address them, instead of mongering fear.