The first of two new air quality monitors in Clairton is operational this week.
Located at the Clairton Education Center, the new monitor will also measure sulfur dioxide, or SO2, emissions, according to an update provided by the Allegheny County Department of Health.
Residents have been calling for increased monitoring and oversight of emissions from the Clairton Coke Works since a Dec. 24 fire damaged equipment used to remove pollutants, including SO2, from coke oven gas.
The health department issued an alert Jan. 9 , 2.5 weeks after the fire, advising residents — especially those with asthma, bronchitis or emphysema, as well as children and the elderly — that there could be higher than usual sulfur dioxide emissions throughout the Mon Valley.
The Clairton Education Center was selected because of its location, health department spokesperson Ryan Scarpino said in an email Monday.
“It’s in a different wind direction from the Coke Works than our other monitors, and therefore offers additional information about potential air quality issues in Clairton,” he said.
The second monitor will be placed in a to-be-determined area near U.S. Steel’s Irvin Works, about five miles from the Clairton Coke Works in West Mifflin, Scarpino said.
Coke oven gas is flared at Irvin Works.
As of Monday afternoon, no SO2 exceedances have occurred at the Clairton, Liberty or North Braddock monitors, which monitor SO2 levels throughout the Mon Valley, according to health department data.
Residents can view hourly data collected by health department air quality monitors online at the county health department website.
The department is also issuing daily updates on its Facebook page and via the Allegheny County Alert System, which sends updates by phone, text and email.
U.S. Steel is posting updates on the investigation to the cause of the fire and progress of repairs at: http://www.clairton.uss.com.
U.S. Steel has advised the health department that the coke oven gas cleaning unit is expected to be operating at 70 percent capacity by May 15.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines.