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Environment & Energy

Allegheny County Air Rules Weakened

The ever yo-yoing Allegheny County Health Department Board changed toxic air guidelines again on Wednesday.

In a 6-0 vote with two abstentions, the board approved an amendment to shrink the “public exposure boundary,” or the area where public health risk is measured. The change shifts the boundary from the industry’s property line to the nearest habitable structure.  The board had voted in November 7-1 in favor of the tighter rules.

Ben Avon Councilman Michael Bett argued against relaxed regulations.

“Consider the impact on neighboring landowners' rights,” he said. “If such a foolish and low standard were to be applied, a permit issued next to a farm, forested land, or a park or other public land creates a moving target: where is the nearest building today, how about tomorrow?”

In his argument, Bett referenced the ACHD mission statement which declares ACHD’s mission is, “to assure quality public health services by promoting individual and community wellness, preventing injury, illness and premature death or disability, and protecting the population from harmful effects of chemical, biological and physical hazards within the environment.”

Bett said the guidelines adopted in November fulfill the statement, but relaxing those standards will undermine it.

“I am asking that in support of the mission, of your mission, that the proposed amendment to the guidelines be rejected,” Bett said. “As [board member Dr. Donald Burke] has stated, the original guidelines are scientifically sound, and were achieved after reaching consensus with industry input.”

Ben Avon is located directly across the Ohio River from highly industrialized Neville Island.