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This story comes from PublicSource, a nonprofit digital-first news organization that delivers public-service reporting and analysis in the Pittsburgh region.

For Allegheny County, 2019 was a year of reckoning with the consequences of two fires at the U.S. Steel plant in Clairton.

A blaze in December 2018 was followed by a second fire the next June. Meanwhile, the American Lung Association gave Allegheny County’s air another F grade, and residents logged thousands of new complaints on the Smell PGH app.

The county’s air in 2018 was actually the cleanest it had been since the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1963. But as 2019 ended, an eerie smog hung over the area. Lingering for six days, it contained some of the worst air pollution in recent memory. 

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County Executive Rich Fitzgerald started to field a lot of questions during the smog event, including from his wife: “Why do you keep looking at your phone?” 

The Smoke Readers Who Keep Tabs on Air Pollution