Key Areas: Quality of air, water, and soil; lead; stormwater management; climate change; fracking and petrochemical industry expansion; healthy homes
While the air pollution has decreased in our region from the heyday of heavy industry, environmental hazards continue to impact and threaten the health of residents throughout the region, some residents more than others. An expanded petrochemical industry presence and climate change loom over our future.
How much pollution we’re exposed to on a daily basis depends on how close our homes are to industrial and other polluters—whether in the Mon Valley or in rural areas with fracking operations. Throughout the industrial history of the region, some of the most affordable housing has been in the areas with the worst pollution. Many of the houses themselves are considered unhealthy, with lead paint, lead pipes, leaky roofs, damp basements, mold, poor insulation, contaminated soils, and other hazards.
Many jobs in the region are still tied to heavy industry, and yet renewable energy and green infrastructure projects would offer employment and career opportunities while improving the environment and our health.
Better-insulated, better-cooled homes with drier basements will be necessary as a warmer climate brings hotter summers that risk heat stress and more rain that risks basement flooding and mold, potentially affecting people’s health.
Climate change will reshape where our food comes from and what we can grow locally. Soils in many parts of the area are still filled with the industrial heavy metals from the air pollution that ultimately sank to the ground, making the soils unfit for growing food.
The environments of our homes and schools affect our students’ growth, development, and learning abilities. It will be important to provide students with the skills and education they need to navigate a region and planet with environmental challenges, the chaos of accelerating climate change, and the transformations needed to create a more environmentally and politically stable planet.
Locally, part of that change comes in shifting our transportation infrastructure from one that prioritizes individual car ownership, especially for cars that run on gas, to one that prioritizes public transit that runs on renewable energy and other modes of environmentally-friendly transportation.