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Allegheny County is assessing the effect of curbing Mon Valley pollution during inversions

Big clouds of smoke rise from a large industrial facility as houses are seen in the foreground.
Reid R. Frazier
The Allegheny Front
U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works.

On today’s episode of The Confluence: 

Inversions can trap air pollution and exacerbate health issues, but a County Health Department rule is trying to mitigate the effects
(0:00 - 8:35)

In 2021, the Allegheny County Health Department enacted a rule that requires 17 facilities in the Mon Valley to reduce their particulate emissions during weather events called inversions.

The inversions trap pollution lower to the ground, making it more likely for people to be exposed to particulate matter and exacerbating pre-existing conditions. The department is now assessing the effect of that rule.

“I think the crux of it is that, fundamentally, this is a meteorological phenomenon, right? So when an inversion happens and those pollutants get trapped, eventually they’re going to dissipate,” says Quinn Glabicki, climate and environment reporter with PublicSource.

“The question that the health department is trying to parse through right now is, did those pollutants disperse because the rule was effective and there was less emitted or was it simply because weather patterns changed and, you know, the wind patterns blew that [particulate matter] elsewhere?” says Glabicki.

All of the impacted facilities gave the health department mitigation plans on how each would reduce particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions when inversions happen. The department is analyzing effects from when the county issued seven inversion warnings to the facilities.

Pittsburgh Food Policy Council’s new executive director says food justice policy must focus on communities that have suffered disinvestment
(8:38 - 17:13)

Food justice has received a lot of attention in Pittsburgh in recent years: at the last minute, $3 million was allocated in the city budget for 2023 to a food justice fund.

The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council has been at the forefront of efforts to address food justice, and it’s welcoming a new executive director, Joanna “Jo” Deming.

Deming formerly served as executive director for Fineview and Perry Hilltop Citizens Councils, a role which she says contributed to her awareness of food deserts.

“I learned that it is difficult to access food when you live on top of a hill, when you don't have a grocery store within, you know, one and a half to two miles… everything from neighbors pulling a wagon full of food on a rope to, you know, just being burdened with groceries,” says Deming.

The Council is currently working with the city to ensure the $3 million in Food Justice Fund is distributed in a transparent and accessible way.

A Pittsburgh startup is making accommodations specifically for neurodivergent employees
(17:18 - 22:30)

Unemployment is especially high among people who exhibit neurodivergence. This term is often associated with autism, but it includes conditions such as dyslexia and ADHD.

90.5 WESA’s An-Li Herring reports on a local tech startup that recruits neurodiverse employees because their brains work differently.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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