A group composed of anti-pollution advocates, athletes and outdoor enthusiasts gathered on the South Side today to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen its annual and daily air quality standards.
"Pittsburgh, while its air quality has improved greatly over the last few decades, still has some of the dirtiest air in the nation," said Jamin Bogi, education and outreach coordinator for local non-profit Group Against Smog and Pollution. "So we have so much to gain from a very strong standard."
The Pittsburgh group called for the EPA to set an annual standard of 11 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic meter and a daily standard of 25 micrograms per cubic meter, a level speakers said would better protect people who work or exercise outside from the health effects of air pollution.
The news conference -- which took place beside the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and featured representatives from outdoor groups including Bike Pittsburgh, Venture Outdoors and Girls on the Run -- comes one month after the EPA already proposed strengthening the soot standards.
In June, the EPA proposed setting an annual standard at levels within the range of 12-13 micrograms per cubic meter, a tighter standard than the 15 micrograms per cubic meter standard in place since 1997. The agency has proposed retaining the daily standard at 35 micrograms per cubic meter, a level set in 2006.
The EPA will hold a public hearing on the new standards Tuesday in Philadelphia, and Mr. Bogi said his group is sending their comments for consideration. A central part of their message, he said, is that the air should be kept clean so people can bike, run and play around Pittsburgh without worrying about pollution.
In her job as a Pittsburgh Public Schools preschool teacher, Audrey Dawida of Carrick said she worries about air quality as she sees more and more of her students using inhalers.
"If they are starting out with asthma at 3 or 4 just because they are breathing the air, what hope do they have to be 60 like I am and biking?" she asked.
In recent years, Pittsburgh has gained a reputation as a "green city," said Lora Woodward, public program director for Venture Outdoors. Still, she said, there's more work to do.
"We want it to be known as a clean city," she said.