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County Offers Residents New Air-Quality Tool

By Submitted Report
The Tube City Almanac
March 14, 2023
Posted in: State & Region

In an effort to improve transparency and provide residents more information about the region’s air quality, the Allegheny County Health Department has launched a new dashboard dedicated to tracking hydrogen sulfide.

The dashboard, which was created in partnership with CountyStat, displays up-to-date information from the county’s two hydrogen sulfide monitoring sites located in North Braddock and Liberty Borough, a spokesman said.

Other information on the webpage explains the state’s hydrogen sulfide regulations and what the health department’s Air Quality Program is doing to monitor and enforce Pennsylvania’s standards.

The Allegheny County Hydrogen Sulfide Dashboard is available on the county’s website.

Hydrogen sulfide, also known by the chemical formula H2S, is a colorless gas with a rotten egg-like smell. The most common sources are from industrial processes like oil and natural gas refineries, kraft paper production, coke ovens and tanneries, a county spokesman said.

It is also released at sewage treatment facilities and landfills.

“The smell associated with H2S has long been a concern for Allegheny County residents,” said Patrick Dowd, acting director of the health department. “Hourly H2S readings have been available on the department’s website for years, but creating this dashboard allows for the data to be understood in a much more straightforward and discernable way.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not have federal air quality standards for hydrogen sulfide.

Pennsylvania is one of a few states with a hydrogen sulfide regulation. In 1971, the county health department incorporated the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection hydrogen sulfide regulations into its Air Quality Rules and Regulations.

The Air Quality Program enforces the Pennsylvania hydrogen sulfide odor control standard and has issued enforcement orders based on it.

Many hydrogen sulfide emissions are fugitive, meaning they are released at non-specific points during an industrial process and cannot be easily traced, the county spokesman said. The ACHD’s Air Quality Program has sought enforcement actions against H2S emitters in the past and will continue to do so, if facilities are found in violation of the state’s H2S standard.

“The Allegheny County Health Department is committed to improving the air quality our residents breathe on a daily basis, whether it be for health or odor purposes,” Dowd said. “This new dashboard is another step in that direction.”

In 2022, to better understand H2S and where it is originating from in the county, the Health Department authored a study entitled Analysis and Attribution of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) Exceedances at the Liberty Monitoring Site from January 1, 2020 through March 1, 2022. This study looked at data from its permanent H2S monitors and portable H2S sensors, weather conditions, emissions inventory statements from facilities, and how these factors were used to determine the source of H2S exceedances.

Originally published March 14, 2023.

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