The American Lung Association bestowed the title of nation's sootiest city upon Pittsburgh, pushing Los Angeles into the number two position. Today's Post-Gazette print edition has it as the main front page story with a suitably ominous photo of the pollution belching Clairton Coke Works, owned by US Steel.
The "State of the Air: 2008" report, which used U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air pollution data for 2004, 2005 and 2006, says aggressive emissions controls in the Los Angeles area have reduced year-round particle levels by about one-third over the last seven years, while Pittsburgh earned the top spot by making only marginal improvement.County Health Dept. officials dispute the rating, saying it only pertains the Mon Valley due to the Clairton facility. The ALA says taking that out of the equation drops the Burgh's rating to 16th sootiest. Better, but no reason for celebrating.
The good news is that ground-level ozone levels continue to drop rapidly in Pittsburgh, from a ranking of 17 to 34 since 2005.
Clairton Coke Works, United States Steel Corporation; painting by Howard Fogg.