A lot of things about Pittsburgh are worth celebrating these days. Downtown keeps getting better. The North Shore is developing and the South Side is full of vitality. The cost of owning a home is relatively low.
Now, look up and breathe in more good news.
The region is in attainment of the federal air quality standard for fine-particle pollution for the first time in more than a decade. That's according to the Allegheny County Health Department, which said that all eight of its fine particle monitors registered annual averages in 2011 that were below the federal standard. Compliance is determined by a three-year average, in this case 2009-2011.
Jim Thompson, the county's air quality program manager, boasted that the local air "is the best it has been since the Industrial Revolution began more than 100 years ago." May it continue for another hundred.
The readings were no fluke, but the result of planned, costly improvements at U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works and better operations after county enforcement actions at the Shenango Coke Works on Neville Island. Another factor was lower emissions from upwind out-of-state power plants.
The good news will only get better as additional controls are installed at the Clairton plant. As the air continues to improve, the region can breathe easy.