ShareThis Page
Allegheny County Health Department issues enforcement order against U.S. Steel | TribLIVE.com
Allegheny

Allegheny County Health Department issues enforcement order against U.S. Steel

Jamie Martines
| Thursday, February 28, 2019 4:40 p.m
815794_web1_PTR-Coke02-011719
Clairton Coke Works on Jan. 15, 2019.

U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works facilities have violated local and federal air quality regulations and must get back in compliance, according to an order issued by the Allegheny County Health Department on Thursday.

The order requires the facilities — which include Clairton Coke Works in Clairton, Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock and Irvin Plant in West Mifflin — to choose among reducing the volume of coal in each coke oven, further extending coking times or putting coke oven batteries in “hot idle” status, according to the order.

U.S. Steel may also propose its own plan to reduce emissions.

“To get the plant back into compliance, and to protect the health of the public, it was essential to prepare and issue this evidence-based order,” Jim Kelly, deputy director of environmental health at the Allegheny County Health Department, said in a statement.

The order stems from a series of spikes in sulfur dioxide emissions since a Dec. 24 fire at Clairton Coke Works hindered the facility’s ability to clean coke oven gas.

The most recent spike on Feb. 4, which was measured at the health department’s North Braddock air quality monitor, marked the seventh time health department air quality monitors detected sulfur dioxide levels that exceeded federal standards for hourly emissions.

Since then, the health department has determined that the exceedance was directly related to a lack of desulfurization at Clairton Coke Works, Kelly said in the statement. The data also show that the amount of sulfur dioxide emitted daily from those three facilities exceeds federal and local air quality standards.

U.S. Steel is reviewing the order, according to a statement provided by spokesperson Meghan Cox.

“This matter has been a top priority for the entire company since it occurred, and we continue to work around the clock with maximum resources to resolve it as quickly as possible,” the statement said. “Prior to the fire, we had made significant environmental performance improvements. While the fire is an unfortunate setback, we are committed to continuing that progress.”

Environmental advocacy groups that have been calling for increased oversight of the U.S. Steel facilities since the Dec. 24 fire were happy to see the health department issue the enforcement order.

“We all have the same goals: ensuring that pollution controls are restored, minimizing harmful emissions, and promoting healthy air in the community,” Christopher Ahlers, staff attorney with the Clean Air Council, said in a statement. “We want to ensure a complete, speedy, and just resolution of this public health problem.”

Clean Air Council, along with the group PennEnvironment, announced earlier this month that they planned to sue U.S. Steel over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. In a joint statement Thursday, both organizations said that they intend to move forward with filing a lawsuit at the conclusion of a mandatory 60-day notice period, which was initiated Feb. 13.

“We hope to work cooperatively with the Health Department to uphold vital limits on air pollution and create a disincentive for any company to let such a situation — operating a plant without a functioning pollution control system — happen again,” Ashleigh Deemer, PennEnvironment’s Western Pennsylvania director, said in the statement.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, jmartines@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.