Lawrenceville foundry exceeds emissions goal
A Lawrenceville foundry under review by the Allegheny County Health Department appears to have exceeded expectations on a critical emissions test that could spare it potentially devastating production cuts.
Preliminary results indicate that McConway & Torley LLC's 48th Street property captured more emissions and was more efficient than health department officials first thought, Jim Thompson, the department's deputy director of environmental quality, said Thursday.
The department is testing emissions at the nearly 150-year-old foundry as part of the process of issuing an operating permit. An initial draft of the permit required the foundry to reduce steel production by 77 percent to comply with revised air quality regulations.
“All things being equal, it could bring the production level back to what the company had wanted,” Thompson said. “We really won't be able to say what the final production level will be until we do these other stack tests.”
The department recently revised its estimates on the amount of emissions a building can trap. The efficiency of the building — a zero in the draft permit — was a major factor in the proposed production cuts, Thompson said.
McConway & Torley employees, supervised by the health department, completed the building emissions test last month. Final results will be available in a few weeks, Thompson said.
“We are encouraged by the recent building capture results and look forward to the next phase of testing,” company spokesman David Caliguiri said in a statement. “We will continue to work with Allegheny County Health Department throughout the permitting process.”
Rachel Filippini, executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution, a Garfield-based nonprofit fighting the foundry, said she is glad the department required tests to back the company's claims. She said that when the group reviews the test results, it will scrutinize whether the test reflected what happens during normal production.
“The plant's permit has to be based on hard data about the actual pollution it's emitting each day, not on untested assumptions,” Filippini said in a statement. “At the end of the day, the most important test is whether the plant's new permit makes the air cleaner for the people who have to breathe the foundry's emissions.”
Lawrenceville residents, neighborhood groups and environmental activists have used the operating permit process to blast the foundry with allegations about pollution, heavy truck traffic and noise. Foundry management said it complies with local, state and federal environmental regulations, and suggested that other industries and businesses in the area contribute to truck traffic and noise.
McConway & Torley melts scrap steel to make railroad couplers, which connect railcars. The foundry would have to cut steel production from 92,500 tons to 21,250 tons per year under the draft permit.
Employees have said the proposed production cuts would threaten the jobs of about 420 people who work there.
The health department expects to complete the emissions test by July and issue an updated draft permit in the fall.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.