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Air Quality Is Still An Issue As County Health Dept Weighs 'Hot Idle' For Clairton Coke Works

Gene J. Puskar
Clairton Coke Works has been the site of mutiple recent exceedances of a pollutant known as sulfur dioxide.

The Allegheny County Health Department has been criticized in community meetings and at a state legislative policy hearing for a lack of communication in the first several days after a Christmas Eve fire at Clairton Coke Works. How can outreach improve, what’s being done to repair the plant, and how can Pittsburghers protect themselves from emissions?

Department director Dr. Karen Hacker joins The Confluence to explain, plus share her thoughts on this year’s reduced flu rates and mandatory lead testing for local kids.  

Credit Kevin Gavin / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, stands outside the WESA studios on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019.

Later in the program:

While building trails in Mount Washington’s Emerald View Park, Nathaniel Broadus noticed that his African American colleagues that worked in the park rarely used them or their trails. As a response, he co-foundedBlackpacking, a nature excursion group that encourages people of color to get out, have fun and exercise. He spoke to 90.5 WESA’s Elaine Effort about the monthly hikes.

Civil unrest has eased following deadly violence in Haiti earlier this month. Bishop Leon Pamphile, leader of the Church of God in Christ in Haiti, splits his time between Pittsburgh and his Haitian congregations. He says that mainland Americans often misjudge Haitian people and its challenges. “Haiti apparently comes to mean civil unrest and poverty, but Haiti means more than that,” Pamphile says.

Pope Francis called for an "all-out battle" against child abuse by clergy at the end of a four-day summit on clergy abuse, but offered few details about what that could entail. This summit came after a Pennsylvania grand jury detailed accusations against 300 priests last year. 90.5 WESA’s Amy Sisk spoke to a few local Catholics who followed the summit closely, including Rev. Frank Almade of St. John Fisher Parish. He stressed the importance of listening to victims. “Meet with victims. Hear their stories, cry with them, hug them, hear their anger,” he said.

And when Pittsburgh finally got a peek at the Amazon HQ2 package offered by the city, it included tacit approval from Pittsburgh Public Schools in the form of a signed letter from board representative Kevin Carter, who claimed he never signed it. An internal investigation released Fridayruled the matter inconclusive. 90.5 WESA’s Chris Potter says that while the investigation found that Carter probably did not sign the letter, the board was unable to determine who did.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators join veteran journalist Kevin Gavin, taking an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government 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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