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Air quality prompts 'Code Red' warning for Liberty-Clairton

Trump’s Steel Tariffs Short Lived Hopes clarion liberty steel workers pollution air quality industry
Gene J. Puskar
In this May 2, 2019, file photo a worker arrives for his shift at the U.S. Steel Clairton Coke Works in Clairton, Pa.

Air quality for the Liberty-Clairton areareached Code Red Tuesday morning — a level the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection deems to be unhealthy for all people.

Levels of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) pollution spiked around 4 a.m. When air quality reaches the Code Red level, officials recommend that young children, elderly people and people with respiratory problems avoid prolonged time outdoors.

Everyone else should also limit their time outside, according to the DEP. The episode lasted about two hours and ended before 6 a.m.

The flare-up Tuesday followed three consecutive days of DEP-issued Code Orange alerts warning of unhealthy pollution levels for sensitive groups of people. Those levels were related to temperature inversions and strong winds, officials said.

“Weather played a significant role in reducing expected dispersion of air pollution,” which resulted in the spike Tuesday morning, Allegheny County Health Department spokesman Chris Togneri said in a statement.

“The health department continues to monitor conditions in the Mon Valley and issue watches and warnings as required,” he said. “However, if the air quality team determines that any exceedances occurred, enforcement actions will follow.”

ADEP analysis projected the air quality in the Liberty-Clairton area would stay below the Code Orange threshold through Tuesday afternoon, though fine particulate matter concentrations are expected to be high on Wednesday morning. Air quality could improve to the “good range” starting on Thursday.

Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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