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Health Dept. OK’s Some Local Pollution Plans

10 facilities approved, but six rejected as insufficient

By Staff Reports
The Tube City Almanac
February 03, 2022
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

The Allegheny County Health Department has approved air-pollution reduction programs for 10 local industrial plants, but rejected six others submitted by plants in Clairton, North Braddock, Port Vue and West Mifflin.

The plans were required under new legislation, approved last year by Allegheny County Council and signed by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, called the Mon Valley Episode Rule.

The rule requires the health department to warn Mon Valley residents when air quality is likely to be unhealthy; and also requires major sources of air pollution in the Mon Valley to take steps to reduce their emissions during certain weather events commonly called “air inversions.”

When combined with small particles of air pollution and noxious gases, air inversions can create dangerously bad air quality, especially for children, senior citizens and people with lung and heart conditions.

“The Mon Valley Episode Rule is an important and innovative enforcement tool designed to protect people in an area that has long suffered from poor air quality,” said Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the health department. “Everyone has the right to clean air, and our Air Quality program staff will ensure cooperation and compliance from all sources, for the health and wellbeing of everyone in the Mon Valley.”

The health department approved air-pollution reduction programs that were submitted by:

• CP Industries, Christy Park
• Dura-Bond, Duquesne
• Eastman Chemical Resins, Jefferson Hills
• Kelly Run Sanitation, Forward Twp.
• Keywell Metals, West Mifflin
• Lafarge Corp., West Mifflin
• Mid-Continent Coal & Coke Co., Clairton
• NCP Carbon, Jefferson Hills
• TMS International, Clairton, and
• U.S. Steel, Irvin Plant, West Mifflin

Modifications were ordered to the air-pollution reduction plans submitted by six other facilities, including:

• Clairton Slag
• ELG Metals, Port Vue
• TMS International facilities in North Braddock and West Mifflin, and
• U.S. Steel’s Clairton and Edgar Thomson plants.

The health department said the air quality mitigation plan for U.S. Steel Clairton Plant was rejected because calculations were not done correctly; while the plan for ELG Metals was rejected because it did not explain how the facility will reduce pollution created by burning and cutting scrap metals processed at the plant.

The facilities were instructed to resubmit their plans within 30 days, a health department spokesman said.

A spokesperson for the Group Against Smog & Pollution said the group “appreciates that ACHD appears to be carefully reviewing the mitigation plans and pushing for greater emissions reduction,” but criticized the health department for not releasing the plans to the public for review.

“These mitigation plans are a necessary tool for protecting the public’s health (and) we don’t see any reason why the health department cannot and should not make these mitigation plans available for public review,” said Patrick Campbell, GASP’s executive director. “We encourage the health department to post these plans on its website for transparency’s — and accountability’s — sake.”

Under the Mon Valley Episode Rule, health department employees are required to monitor pollution forecasts for weather conditions that could lead to unhealthy air quality.

The health department will issue an air pollution watch when the forecast could cause a high concentration of air pollution in the Mon Valley, and a warning when air pollution is exceeding safe levels and is expected to continue for 24 hours.

When conditions are likely to exceed acceptable levels for the Mon Valley, industrial facilities are required to follow their own approved mitigation plans to reduce emissions.

The rule applies to sources of air pollution in all of the communities along the Monongahela River, as well as Chalfant, East McKeesport, Forest Hills, Liberty Borough, Port Vue, Wall, Wilmerding, White Oak and Wilkins Twp.

A list of all of the facilities covered by the rule is available on the county’s website.

Originally published February 03, 2022.

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