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What's The Role Of The Community In Combating Louisville's Toxic Air Pollution?

Listen to this week's episode:

Why does Louisville have so many fish fries?

Louisville has a long and storied history when it comes to air pollution. While local air quality officials say that air pollution has improved over the years, people remain at risk for health conditions like asthma or cancer. Still, improving the air quality in Louisville is the focus of organizations like the Louisville Metro Air Pollution District, as well as concerned citizens and grassroots organizations.

WFPL's Ryan Van Velzer explored toxic air pollution in his five-part series, "Unequal", which was published in April. Experts featured in that series discussed the state of air pollution and how it affects the people of Louisville during WFPL's In Conversation with Rick Howlett. Those guests were:

  • Keith Talley Sr., Director of the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District
  • Michele Roberts, National Co-Coordinator for the Environmental Justice Health Alliance
  • Sarah Lynn Cunningham, environmental engineer

APCD Director Keith Talley said that over the decades, Louisville has come a long way in terms of air pollution.

"We are actually in attainment five of the six criteria pollutants," Talley said. According to Talley, ozone is the odd one out. "Ozone is a particular problem in the Louisville market," said Talley.

Michele Roberts with the Environmental Justice Health Alliance, said it's a good thing that Louisville has the APCD.

"Not many communities across the nation have air quality control management districts," Roberts said. She also says projects like APCD's Strategic Toxic Air Reduction Program, or STAR, are a step in the right direction.

Speaking to STAR specifically, Roberts says because the program is critically underfunded, it has failed to address the challenges faced by people living in communities affected by air pollution. The communities most affected by the pollution are in west and south Louisville, according to a WFPL analysis.

But even historically, those focused on improving the air quality in Louisville have made progress. Sarah Lynn Cunningham, an environmental engineer, has been focused on improving the city's air for decades.

"For over a century, the polluters have done every trick in the book to try to avoid accountability," Cunningham said. She says that over time, the people fighting for clean air have progressively reined in the companies responsible for pollution, and that spirit is still necessary today if things are going to continue to get better.

Join us next week on WFPL’s In Conversation as we discuss the surge of youth vaping in Louisville and Kentucky.

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