Health Dept Chief, Overseer of Pgh Air Quality Regs, Ousted

The man who bore the brunt of criticism about persistent air pollution problems in Pittsburgh, Dr. Bruce Dixon, lost his job. Dixon headed the Allegheny County Health Department for 20 years. That department is responsible for regulating air pollution standards. PennFuture had been calling for Dixon's resignation since last year. The Allegheny Front hears from PennFuture.

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JORDAN: The Penn Future transition wasnít the only change in environmental and public health leadership this week. The man who bore the brunt of criticism about persistent air pollution problems in Pittsburgh, Dr. Bruce Dixon, lost his job. Dixon headed the Allegheny County Health Department for 20 years. That department is responsible for regulating air pollution standards. PennFuture had been calling for Dixonís resignation since last year. Tiffany Hickman, western Pennsylvania Outreach Coordinator of PennFuture, explains why.

HICKMAN: We were very displeased with how he handled the Allegheny County Environmental Task Force, their recommendations for how to improve. He was very lax in implementing some of those recommendations, and we were not happy to see that. He was quoted last year as saying, ëWe could have the air quality of Montana if we didnít care about jobs.í Thatís a really toxic mindset for Allegheny County.

JORDAN: Hickman says that clean air needs to be part of the jobs discussion for Allegheny County. More than a dozen people spoke to the department on Dixonís behalf--including well-known forensic pathologist and former county medical examiner Cyril H. Wecht. But the boardís vote was unanimous. There was one abstention due to a member who was not present at the meeting. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the ouster was orchestrated by new county executive Rich Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald issued a statement saying that, quote, "It is now time to take the department in a new direction, and to ensure that our public health, air quality, food safety and other critical services are among the best in the nation."

Dixon was not available for comment.