The latest air quality readings from the neighborhood surrounding Erie Coke have been released. The public can now see for themselves how the air quality has improved since the plant shut down in late December.

The latest readings cover the period from January 2 to January 15. That's the first set of readings that have been released where the plant was shut down for every day of the testing period.

The highest level of benzene recorded at a monitoring station during that 2-week period was .73 micrograms per cubic meter. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP) that's well below the department’s trigger value of 1.3 micrograms per cubic meter. Three consecutive readings of 1.3 "trigger" a DEP investigation.

The highest number recorded in that neighborhood was 6.4 micrograms per cubic meter. That was recorded in early August. The January readings are significantly lower than that.

With the latest results, the air near Erie Coke could now be the envy of other large cities throughout the entire country.

"So these results are actually lower than the average benzene concentration on an urban environment in the United States. So definitely, things are trending in the right way and the Erie community should feel a little safer,” says Tom Decker, DEP Northwest Communications Officer.

Air quality monitoring began near the Erie Coke plant in July. 13 monitoring units were placed in the neighborhood after the DEP heard many air pollution complaints from citizens.

The plant decided to shut down on December 19.