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'Multiple' Pollution Violations at Braddock's E.T., Say Health Dept., EPA

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
November 14, 2017
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Photo: "Edgar Thomson looms" by Dan Buczynski via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

U.S. Steel is in violation of what health department officials called "multiple" air quality regulations at its Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock and North Braddock, an Allegheny County official said Tuesday.

The violations stretch back to February 2016 and continued into 2017, said Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.

"These violations must stop," Hacker said in a prepared statement. "U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Plant must come into compliance to improve the air quality for the health of all county residents. The health of our county is paramount."

The department, in a joint effort with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, has served the company with a Notice of Violation, she said.

The notice begins the process of determining both the necessary penalties as well as the emissions-control improvements necessary to bring the plant back into compliance with air pollution regulations, Hacker said.

U.S. Steel spokeswoman Meghan M. Cox told Tube City Almanac that the company has received the notice of violation. "We are currently reviewing it and will work with the ACHD and EPA to resolve any issues," she said.

Edgar Thomson, part of the Mon Valley Works, is the last remaining U.S. Steel facility in the Mon Valley that produces steel from raw materials. It opened in 1872 and was founded by Andrew Carnegie himself.

The plant's annual capacity is about 2.8 million tons, or roughly one-quarter of U.S. Steel's domestic production.

About 900 people work at "E.T.," which is visible from both Route 30 and Route 837.

Some of the steel produced there is sent to Irvin Plant in West Mifflin to be transformed into sheets and rolls for use in the automobile and appliance industries.

Hacker said that both the health department and the EPA observed "multiple violations" at Edgar Thomson, including failure to maintain emissions equipment, excessive "visible emissions," such as smoke, and failure to comply with the plant's operating permit as outlined in the federal Clean Air Act.

The county Health Department has been working with the EPA closely over the past nine months to enhance its enforcement efforts, said Ryan Scarpino, a health department spokesman. The goal of both agencies is a "more effective compliance effort," he said.

“This notice of violation represents a strategic change in ACHD’s enforcement efforts by utilizing all of our legal options, which in this case is a joint action with EPA,” Hacker said. “With EPA on board, our enforcement power is exponentially increased."

Conflict of Interest Note: The editor of Tube City Almanac has a conflict of interest. He is a U.S. Steel stockholder.

Originally published November 14, 2017.

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