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Inaugural Clean Air Dash and Festival celebrates Pittsburgh's healthy turnaround

| Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 7:50 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
'Wattley,' the Duquesne Light Co. mascot helps lead participants in the Fun Run in pre-run stretches at the inaugural Clean Air Dash and Festival on Saturday, October 19, 2013, at the South Side's Riverfront Park.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Abby and Franklin Chen of Squirrel Hill dance to DJ provided music at the inaugural Clean Air Dash and Festival on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at the South Side Riverfront Park.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Albert Presto (left) watches as his colleague Tim Dallman explains the functions in Carnegie Mellon University's new mobile air quality laboratory Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, at South Side's Riverfront Park.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
(from left) Victoria Radinovic, Maddy Clutter and Hailey Majetic, all age 10, paint and decorate pie pumpkins at the inaugural Clean Air Dash and Festival on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at the South Side Riverfront Park.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Albert Presto (left) watches as his colleague Tim Dallman explains the functions in the Breathe Project mobile unit at the inaugural Clean Air Dash and Festival on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at the South Side Riverfront Park.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Tim Dallman explains the functions in the at the inaugural Clean Air Dash and Festival on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at the South Side Riverfront Park.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Albert Presto (left) and his colleague Tim Dallman explain the functions in the at the inaugural Clean Air Dash and Festival on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at the South Side Riverfront Park.

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 tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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