Inaugural Clean Air Dash and Festival celebrates Pittsburgh's healthy turnaround
Anyone with a hint of knowledge about Western Pennsylvania's past knows one thing for sure: The air around here was downright dirty.
On Saturday, Pittsburgh's progress in reducing air pollution was celebrated in South Side's Riverfront Park with the inaugural Clean Air Dash and Festival featuring a 5K race, booths promoting clean energy and healthy lifestyles and activities including music, yoga demonstrations and a climbing wall.
Group Against Smog and Pollution, or GASP, hosted the daylong event.
Carnegie Mellon University used the festival to debut a tool for community outreach and education — a mobile air quality laboratory in a van outfitted with high-tech gear to monitor and collect air pollution data anywhere in the region.
“In terms of air pollution, we've certainly come a long way in Pittsburgh since the 1970s,” said Albert Presto, an assistant research professor of mechanical engineering at CMU who demonstrated the equipment. “But the fact is, we still regularly violate federal air-quality standards in this region, so there is still a great need to address these problems.”
Presto noted that test equipment in the mobile lab, which was stationed under the Birmingham Bridge, was picking up high levels of black carbon, or soot, from the diesel vehicles traveling above even though there was no noticeable pollution.
Rachel Filippini, executive director of GASP, said the amount of community and business support for the inaugural event was exciting.
“People recognize that air quality is still a priority issue in Pittsburgh and want to be a part of the solution,” she said.
One of the businesses in attendance was ZeroFossil Energy Outfitters of Munhall, which set up a series of solar-powered battery stacks called “juice boxes” to run the equipment for the disc jockey at the festival.
“We love these type events because it gives us the opportunity to show people that there are alternative energy sources available to them,” said Chris Corbran, a technician with the company. The company moves all of its equipment in vehicles powered by vegetable oil that typically is reclaimed from restaurant fryers.
Mac Howison, 40, of Swissvale took first place in the race's 40- to 49-year-old men's division. Nearly 600 runners entered.
“It's great to do something healthy and celebratory like a run that uses the riverfront trails to highlight something so important,” he said.
Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or firstname.lastname@example.org.