ShareThis Page
East Pittsburgh resident sues U.S. Steel over Clairton Coke Works fire | TribLIVE.com
Allegheny

East Pittsburgh resident sues U.S. Steel over Clairton Coke Works fire

Jamie Martines
1031722_web1_PTR-Coke01-011719
Clairton Coke Works on Jan. 15, 2019.

An East Pittsburgh resident has filed a class action lawsuit against U.S. Steel in connection with the Dec. 24 fire at the Clairton Coke Works.

Linda Hernandez claims she started feeling sick after spending hours outside on Christmas Eve decorating her East Pittsburgh home, according to the lawsuit.

She said she smelled a “chemical and sulfurous odor” and experienced physical discomforts like a burning throat, difficulty breathing, headache and persistent coughing, according to the lawsuit.

U.S. Steel did not immediately reply to a request for comment Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges that U.S. Steel was negligent and reckless by allowing the plant to continue operating after the fire and for failing to notify residents immediately following the fire.

It argues that U.S. Steel “had a duty to area residents to exercise ordinary care to prevent foreseeable interference — here, by the release of offensive odors and noxious emissions — with the residents’ use and enjoyment of their properties.”

The lawsuit was filed with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on April 9.

East Pittsburgh was one of 22 communities included in warnings issued by the Allegheny County Health Department following the fire. The fire knocked out equipment at the plant and hindered the facility’s ability to clean coke oven gas.

In the weeks that followed, the health department issued several reports of higher than normal levels of sulfur dioxide, or SO2. The health department has since determined that those spikes were related to a lack of desulfurization at the Clairton Coke Works.

Though the exact number of class members is unknown, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of all the residents of those communities and is believed to be in the tens of thousands, according to the complaint.

Hernandez continued to experience those symptoms during the months following the fire, the lawsuit said.

She stopped taking her dogs for walks, kept her granddaughter inside and limited outdoor activity. She felt a reprieve from those symptoms when she vacationed outside the Mon Valley area, the lawsuit said.

Hernandez was not available for an interview due to the pending litigation, her lawyer, Scott Entin of the Chicago-based law firm Miner, Barnhill and Galland said Tuesday.

The firm has handled similar pollution-related class action suits in the past, including one representing residents of Muscatine, Iowa against a nearby factory causing air pollution.

In February, an Iowa judge approved a $50 million settlement for the 15,000 residents and required the Grain Processing Corporation to install additional pollution controls, according to reports from Iowa Public Radio.

Hernandez is requesting a jury trial.

Entin said his firm will be working closely with the Pittsburgh-based law firm Feinstein, Doyle, Payne and Kravec.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] 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.