The new guidelines have been years in the making, and their approval delayed time and time again. On Wednesday the Allegheny County Board of Health finally voted to adopt them.
“Probably the most important piece of it is that it updates the guidelines that have been used in the past. When the current guidelines, the one they’re using now, were written the space shuttle program was brand new, Ben Roethlisberger was just out of kindergarten,” said Tom Hoffman, western PA Director for Clean Water Action and member of the task force that drafted the new regulations.
In that time a lot has been learned about air toxics, and these guidelines reflect newer science than the previous guidelines were based upon. The Allegheny County Health Department will use the guidelines to measure the potential health impacts of emissions from new industrial plants. Some areas of the county, such as Neville Island and Clairton, have more air problems than others.
“Under the new guidelines we have to be more careful in those areas,” said Hoffman, “special care has to be taken when given permits in there so we don’t make a bad situation a lot worse.”
The guidelines were drafted by a task force of industry representatives, academia, healthcare officials, community members, and environmental groups. They are not binding, and are not regulations, but rather guide posts that will be considered for anyone seeking a permit to build an industrial plant in Allegheny County. Hoffman said the guidelines will help draw new people to the area.
“It’s a huge step forward, it updates these and our region taking a step to clean its air is going to be a really good thing for our economy.”
The new guidelines will take effect February 7.