Allegheny County Board of Health OKs Minor Changes to Air Quality Standards

Mar 6, 2013

The Allegheny County Board of Health has approved minor changes to ambient air standards and enforcement. Going forward, instead of listing the individual ambient standards, state and federal standards will be referenced.

“Currently, we have a table in our regulations of all the ambient air quality standards from the EPA, the state, and local ones. The problem is these are changed frequently and as a result we have to keep changing our regulations,” said Jim Thompson, director of the Air Quality Program at the Allegheny Department of Health.

Now, the ambient air standards will always be up to date.

Another change is a shift in enforcement language.

“We change, where appropriate, where county commissioners was an administrative function, it refers to the county executive now. Where it’s a legislative function it refers to the County Council. It also adds the program manager of the Air Quality Department, which happens to be me, to the list of people that can sign enforcement orders,” said Thompson.

Shale Drilling Notification

The Board also approved a provision that would require unconventional well operators drilling for gas to notify the health department during specific stages of drilling, so that county officials can monitor emissions at the sites. Thompson said Act 13, which governs Marcellus Shale regulations, does include a notification system, though it does not require operators to notify the health department.

“So we wanted to get on top of this, especially with increased drilling that may occur due to the recent leasing at the airport, so that we know what the schedule is and we can be on top of monitoring and addressing any public health issues that may arise,” he said.

The Board also approved $35,000 in funding from the Environmental Health Fund to support Braddock Farms, an effort that provides affordable fresh fruits and vegetables to Braddock residents.