Editor's Note: The writer of this article has a conflict of interest; he is a U.S. Steel Corp. stockholder.
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The Allegheny County Health Department has reached an agreement with U.S. Steel regarding what health officials called "numerous violations of both county and federal emission standards" at the Clairton Coke Works.
The agreement and the associated complaint were filed last week following judicial review in the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania.
County officials recognize that U.S. Steel "expends considerable resources to understanding and fixing" pollution problems at the Clairton Works, said Jim Thompson, deputy director of environmental health at the Allegheny County Health Department. The plant heats coal to remove impurities and create coke, a fuel used in blast furnaces, as well as produce chemicals used in pharmaceuticals, paints and other products.
But, a health department spokeswoman said, U.S. Steel has failed to meet various commitments made to the county as part of its ongoing efforts to reduce air polluting emissions.
In January, the non-profit environmental activist group PennFuture announced plans to sue the county, U.S. Steel, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency for what the organization's chief legal counsel, George Jugovic Jr., called a continuing failure to enforce clean air laws.
A search of the federal court database over the past weekend did not find any record of the lawsuit yet being filed.
Pennsylvania budget achieves too little, costs too much
The Democratic governor is standing by his principles by not signing the $6 billion remainder of a $30 billion budget that he believes is unbalanced. But, by letting it become law by Monday without his signature, Wolf is sparing school districts the cost of borrowing additional money to make up for undelivered state funding ...
The question for Wolf is why he did not accept defeat on taxes sooner.
The question for Republican state lawmakers is whether their political victory was worth the heavy costs it imposed: on social service agencies that had to cut staff; on counties ... that paid interest on loans or ... lost interest on reserves they had to spend; and on school districts.
The question for both is how they're going to avoid a replay in fiscal year 2016-17, the budget for which is due by June 30.
A former state trooper from the Mon Valley has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he tried to trick his pension fund into not paying out benefits to his ex-wife.
Steven P. Grados, 51, of Carroll Twp., Washington County, was charged with mail fraud and counterfeiting a federal court seal, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Published reports indicate that Grados is a former Pennsylvania state police corporal, at one time assigned to Troop A, Greensburg barracks.
According to the three-count indictment, Grados created false documents that consisted of an opinion and court order and mailed them to the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System offices in Harrisburg in order to deceive that office into discontinuing paying a portion of his state police pension to his former spouse.
(Above: Scene in the East End of McKeesport, below Highland Grove, during the March 1936 flood.)
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The winter of 1936 was like a lot of winters in Western Pennsylvania --- gloomy and cloudy, with rain and snow, alternating with snow and rain. But in mid-March, a storm center traveling south from Canada collided with another storm moving north from the Gulf of Mexico. Then two smaller storms merged into those.
And beginning March 9, 1936, and continuing for the next two weeks, parts of New England, New York and Pennsylvania were drenched with up to 12 inches of rain. It saturated the ground and filled creeks and streams. And when another storm system moved through on March 16, 1936, the water had nowhere to go.
The end result was the so-called "St. Patrick's Day Flood of 1936" --- the worst ever seen in Western Pennsylvania. More than 80 people in the Pittsburgh area died in that flood, 80 years ago this month, including a McKeesport police officer, and property damage was estimated at well over $100 million.
(Above: Crowd watches the Monongahela River rise at the end of Market Street. This area was redeveloped in the 1950s and is now part of U.S. Steel's idled McKeesport Tubular Operations plant.)
At the beginning of March, snow was 4 to 6 inches deep in parts of the Allegheny and Applachian mountains.
Then came the rain. On March 16 and 17 alone, more than 2 inches of rain fell in McKeesport. Clairton reported 2.5 inches and Irwin nearly 3. More than 4 inches of rain was recorded in Somerset and 2.5 inches in Connellsville.
The combination of rain and warmer-than-usual temperatures melted that snow quickly. From the hills, the rain and melted snow flowed into creeks, and then into the Allegheny, Monongahela, Kiskimenitas, Youghiogheny and Conemaugh rivers, which all ultimately drained into the Ohio.
More than 70 years since the end of World War II, a West Mifflin man has been awarded France’s highest distinction to honor his military service.
Glenn E. Kempf, a life member of West Mifflin's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid, has been named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French Republic. He received the award for his actions as a soldier in the United States Army while serving in Normandy and the Ardennes.
While assigned to the 45th Field Hospital as a medical technician, Kempf landed in Normandy June 7, 1944, on Omaha Beach. He also participated in the Battle of the Bulge later that same year.
“I would like to take this opportunity to express the French Government’s deepest gratitude for your courage,” said Franck Roy, chief of staff to the French ambassador to the United States. “We are forever grateful to the men and women who fought for our freedom and to whom we owe it today.”
A 14-month investigation into drug trafficking in the Mon-Yough area resulted in the arrest today of 31 suspects and arrest warrants for another 16.
Detectives from the Allegheny County police narcotics unit made the arrests during a sweep of Glassport with the assistance of officers from Clairton, Glassport, McKeesport, Elizabeth Borough, Liberty, Lincoln and Port Vue.
More than 50 police officers participated.
The investigation included 115 undercover drug buys, police said. The vast majority of them --- 99 --- involved heroin, police said, while another 11 included marijuana. The others included suboxone, hydrocodone and oxycodone, as well as one cocaine buy, a spokesman said.
Police also confiscated two shotguns --- including one reported stolen in Tennessee --- a handgun and suspected heroin, a spokesman said.
Children from preschool to 10 years old are invited to participate in the annual Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday (March 19) at the Jacob Woll Pavilion in Renziehausen Park.
The event is sponsored by the McKeesport Recreation Board.
Children should arrive beginning at 9:30 a.m. and events begin at 10 a.m., a spokeswoman said. All participants will receive their choice of a children's book donated by Book Country Clearinghouse in McKeesport.
A West Mifflin man has been sentenced in federal court to 72 months' imprisonment, followed by 15 years supervised release, on a charge of distribution of material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton said today.
United States District Judge Mark R. Hornak imposed the sentence on Paul Robert Fike, 37.
Prosecutors allege that in June 2014, Fike distributed images containing material that depicted sexual acts performed by children. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Lieber Smolar prosecuted the case on behalf of the government.
After two months without holding a meeting, McKeesport City Council last week set its schedule for the coming year --- and appointed a councilmember to fill a vacant seat.
LuEthel Nesbit will fill the four-year term to which local businessman Corry Sanders was elected. (Correction added, 5 p.m.)
Nesbit is the longtime executive director of the Steel Valley Opportunities Industrialization Center and is now at ACTION-Housing. A vice-president of the McKeesport branch of the NAACP, Nesbitt also serves on the board of the McKeesport Housing Authority and the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport.
White Oak police will hold a crime prevention meeting at 6:30 p.m. March 30 at the municipal building, 2280 Lincoln Way.
Topics of discussion will include an introduction to the borough's crime prevention program, discussion of the public's role in crime prevention, current local crime trends and future topics and initiatives. All interested borough residents and business owners are welcome to attend.
Work will resume later this month on the nearly $7 million project to expand and improve Lincoln Way in White Oak.
The project, expected to be complete in June, is one of $189 million in total improvements to state-owned roads and bridges planned for Allegheny County in 2016, according to the state Department of Transportation.
“We are pleased to be completing some major projects while initiating news ones,” said Dan Cessna, district executive for PennDOT. “We are proud to be delivering much needed infrastructure enhancements to the Pittsburgh region.”
Lincoln Way has been undergoing extensive reconstruction since 2013 under a long-awaited project to widen the road, add left turning lanes, and improve curbs, sidewalks and drainage. A PennDOT spokesman said the project will be wrapping up this spring when new curbs and sidewalks are completed between Henderson Road and Auld Street in the White Oak business district.
About 16,000 vehicles per day use Lincoln Way, according to PennDOT traffic volume maps.
Other projects that will impact Mon-Yough area motorists and bicyclists include the previously announced Phase 3 of improvements to the interchange on the West Homestead side of the Glenwood Bridge. Work began in late February and will include replacement of the bridge deck on northbound Route 837 --- near the Whemco plant --- and four associated ramps at the interchange.
A Whitaker man has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh in connection with the death of a drug user.
Justin Thornton, 32, is accused of distributing acetylfentanyl and fentanyl in August 2015 that killed a user, says a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton.
The indictment also charges Thornton with possession with intent to distribute heroin, acetylfentanyl, fentanyl, crack cocaine and cocaine.
Fentanyl is a prescription narcotic used to control severe pain. Widely abused, the drug is sold illegally under street names such as "china girl" and "china white." According to published reports, nearly 100 people in Allegheny County died last year from abusing fentanyl.
Acetylfentanyl is a so-called designer drug that is similar to fentanyl.
Thornton is currently being held in Allegheny County Jail awaiting a trial April 20 before Common Pleas Court Judge Edward J. Borkowski on drug trafficking charges filed by Allegheny County Police.
Opinions expressed in editorials and commentaries are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Tube City Community Media Inc. or its directors. Responsible replies are welcomed.
Nicole Noll is a senior at Norwin High School:
Recently, it’s come to my attention that a new student club titled “Knights for Life” has been formed to raise awareness of and promote a pro-life viewpoint amongst the student body. To me, this club has sparked several concerns.
I’d like to start by noting that it seems as if this club has been founded upon political or potentially religious grounds. At Norwin, we have a club for the Christian members of our student body titled “Knights of Faith,” but they’ve never sparked any controversy or publicly shared their views during normal school hours. They’ve been respectful while still honoring their faith.
In order to start a club at Norwin, students involved must first get approval for the idea of their club from the school board and then get a member of the school’s faculty to sign off as the club’s moderator and to help run the meetings. With the case of the Christian “Knights of Faith,” the teacher in charge of the club has never shown or said anything expressing his Christian views during the normal hours of his job.
“Knights for Life,” however, in my opinion, hasn’t shown the same amount of courtesy for students that don’t share those views.
Dravosburg officials and McKeesport police are warning residents not to open their doors to salespeople unless they have a "hawker's permit" from the borough.
An email sent Wednesday by the borough said that if someone comes door-to-door, residents should feel free to ask to see the permit, and that if they "cannot produce their permit, please call 911."
On Tuesday, McKeesport police arrested a Florida man after a resident of Scott Drive in Dravosburg reported someone had come to their door selling books on behalf of a charity. James A. Gundrum, 30, of Riviera, Fla., is charged by McKeesport police with theft by deception.
A Florida-based charity that investigates suspected cults says a McKeesport church manipulates and shames members of its congregation into doing what its pastor tells them to do, including tithing 10 percent of their income to the church.
Citing former members of the congregation, the charity claims those who disobey or attempt to leave the church are shunned.
An attorney has denied the accusations, calling them "specious and unfortunate," and that any misbehavior was done by people no longer affliated with Guy Miller Ministries, while the pastor attributed them to "misunderstandings."
But Families Against Cult Teachings, located in Aventura, Fla., near Miami Beach, claims that based on its own investigation, The Church of Life in Christ on Versailles Avenue, also known as Guy Miller Ministries, shows signs of being a cult.
A man from Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the robbery of the First Commonwealth Bank in White Oak and Compass Federal Savings Bank in Wilmerding.
Leonard D. Gibbons, 55, of Station Street was indicted Tuesday on five counts, including bank robbery and violations of federal firearms laws, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton said yesterday.
Gibbons is currently being held in the Allegheny County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bond, court officials said.
Investigators said that on July 17, 2015, Gibbons held up Compass Bank, fleeing with $7,828. Four months later, on Nov. 19, 2015, Gibbons used a firearm and held up First Commonwealth, netting $3,971, Hickton said.
According to a published report, the robber was spotted fleeing First Commonwealth by a worker at a nearby store, who gave police a description of his getaway car. When the car was seen in McKeesport a short time later, city police and the Allegheny County sheriff's office gave chase and ultimately arrested the driver, identified as Gibbons.
Three Allegheny County residents have been indicted by a federal grand jury for violating firearms laws.
In a 13-count indictment returned on Tuesday, Joshua Bristo, 23, and James Pamplin Jr., 21, both of Clairton, along with Richard Van Holt Jr., 27, of Mt. Oliver, were charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, tampering with a witness by threat of physical force, and brandishing, using, carrying, and possessing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, said U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton.
Prosecutors said that the three men were not eligible to own firearms due to past felony convictions. Instead, Hickton said, the men falsified purchase forms so that they could buy weapons.
The indictment also charges that in March 2015, Bristo pointed a gun at a witness and threatened to kill him.
“Individuals who illegally sell guns end up arming violent criminals, who time and again pull the trigger on our streets and put the public’s safety at risk,” said Sam Rabadi, a special agent-in-charge in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.and prosecute gun crimes.
Glassport-based Tube City IMS Corp. announced today that it is changing its name to TMS International Corp.
The name change reflects the company's growing global presence, a spokesman said.
The new name is effective immediately and is being implemented across all of the company's products and subsidiaries. The company's website address has changed to www.tmsinternational.com.
"Our former name, Tube City IMS, represented a consolidation of different organizations, including Tube City Iron and Metal and International Mill Service," said Raymond Kalouche, President and CEO. "Their proud legacies are the foundation of our current success. But as we move into our tenth decade of operations, we believe TMS International better reflects the company's integrated operations and global status."
Tube City IMS provides a wide range of services to the steel and metals industries, including processing, recovering and brokering the sale of precious metals and alloys; engineering and logistics support; slag handling and processing; and recycling and disposing of waste.
(Above: State Rep. Marc Gergely meets a constituent during an open house at his office. Official Pennsylvania state House of Representatives photo.)
Editor's Note: The author, and Tube City Community Media Inc., have conflicts of interest regarding this story. Please see the editor's note at the end of this story. UPDATED: Added information from the Uniontown Herald-Standard. UPDATED: Added information about donations to Gergely's re-election committee. UPDATED: Added information from The Associated Press.
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State Rep. Marc Gergely has been charged with felony corruption and other offenses in connection with the investigation of a Mon Valley video poker ring that implicated a former McKeesport city councilman and other local officials, including the former Forward Twp. police chief.
The charges were announced today by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane in Harrisburg. Gergely is expected to appear tomorrow for a preliminary arraignment, Kane said.
Kane said the investigation is "ongoing" and that additional charges may yet be filed.
In a prepared statement, Kane said Gergely, 46, a Democrat from White Oak and former president of the McKeesport Area School Board, actively tried to promote and protect the illegal gambling business of Ronald "Porky" Melocchi.
In at least two cases, the attorney general's office claims, Gergely personally met with business owners and tried to convince them to allow Melocchi to put poker machines in their businesses.
"This is an unfortunate case in which the players traded political capital and favors to advance their own agendas and illicit business," Kane said. "The evidence clearly shows that Mr. Melocchi relied heavily on his relationships --- including with Mr. Gergely --- to conduct his illegal business."