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Neville Islanders frustrated with Shenango coke plant

Aaron Aupperlee
| Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, 12:17 a.m.

Frustrated residents plan to walk away from discussions about reducing air pollution and foul odors from the Shenango Inc. coke plant on Neville Island.

Seven members of the two-year-old Neville Island Good Neighbors Working Group said they will deliver a letter of resignation on Tuesday morning to Shenango's front gate.

“I don't think anything was getting fixed,” said Karen Grzywinski, 57, of Ohio Township, a member of the working group since its inception. “We had an open conversation with them, which was good, but from what I observed and from what I smelled when I drive through the area ... I don't think things are getting fixed.”

DTE Energy, the Detroit-based company that bought the coke plant in 2008, spent $8 million on improvements, including projects to reduce emissions and contain waste, said Randi Berris, a company spokeswoman. It plans to spend $34 million more on upgrades.

“We're really disappointed that they feel this way,” Berris said of the resigning members. “The whole point of the good neighbors group was to have an open and constructive dialogue, and anytime they have brought forth concerns, we have addressed them promptly.”

Grzywinski, a Group Against Smog and Pollution board member, said tensions built during past months as some community members of the 10-member working group decided that Shenango wasn't answering their questions.

Some said their concerns about emissions and odors from the plant went unaddressed, but others contend Shenango made improvements.

“I don't believe that to be the case,” said Earl Bohn, a member of the Ben Avon council who attends the meetings. “The company has presented progress reports on their improvements to the oven doors and other improvements to the facility.”

Jim Thompson, deputy director of Environmental Health for Allegheny County, attends the meetings and sensed frustration among members about soaking emissions, which is pollution released from the oven when it is open to the air and the coke is being pushed out, and odors from the plant.

“I'm somewhat disappointed that that's happening,” Thompson said of the resignation letter. “Stopping talking, I don't think is a good thing.”

Berris said Shenango has worked with the Allegheny County Health Department on soaking emissions.

The company established an odor hot line and employees respond to each request, Berris said. She said the smell, which has been likened to rotten eggs, might not be coming from the Shenango plant.

Bohn hopes the working group meetings continue. DTE Energy will re-evaluate whether to cancel the meeting scheduled for January, Berris said.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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