Pittsburghers were captivated last spring by the “eagle cam,” a video Web camera that gave the public a real-time look at the nesting habits of a bald eagle family in the city. Likewise, a “falcon cam” trained on peregrine falcons has shown people a view of the high life atop Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning.
Raptors are one thing, but will people be as enthralled watching time-lapse video of air pollution? If they care about their health, they should be.
The Shenango Channel, at shenangochannel.org, offers video and data of one of Allegheny County’s biggest pollution sources, DTE Energy’s Shenango coke works on Neville Island. The 53-year-old plant along the Ohio River has had a troubled history of controlling harmful air emissions. It has been subject to federal and county consent orders, and in April 2014 it was slapped with a $600,000 civil penalty from Allegheny County.
This week federal and county regulators said they were investigating whether recent emission problems put Shenango in violation of a 2012 consent decree.
But you don’t have to be a pollution specialist to be able to keep an eye on the smokestacks yourself. Now people wary of the plant’s emissions are able to watch the results, 24/7, even in their pajamas.
The “pollution cam” is a collaboration of Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab, the county health department and citizens group Allegheny County Clean Air Now. The channel also provides nearby emissions data gathered from four air monitors.
So it’s not eagles feeding their hatchlings or falcons teaching their young to fly, but the Shenango Channel gives people a window on something more essential — the quality of the air they breathe.