Harsco Metals

The Harsco Metals plant in Natrona is the sixth-most toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. There are at least 33,600 residents within three miles of this scrap metal and slag reprocessing facility.

In March 2017, the Allegheny County Health Department issued Harsco Metals a $33,350 civil penalty because it had been polluting the air with slag dust, a byproduct from the metal refining process, which then settled on nearby cars and playgrounds. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that as of November 2017, more than eight months after the penalty was issued, the company still had not paid it.

In October 2017, the Group Against Smog and Pollution took legal action against Harsco Metals for operating without proper permitting. As a result, Harsco has submitted an application for the proper permit, which as of January 2018 was being reviewed by the Health Department.

TMS International

The TMS International facility in Braddock is the ninth-most toxic active air polluter in Allegheny County (excludes Koppers Inc., which has closed, and reflects changes in TRI reporting by several facilities that changed their ranks since the original publication of this map). Approximately 91,600 people live within three miles of this steel plant.

This facility processes the molten steel produced at the neighboring U.S. Steel Edgar Thomson plant – the tenth-most toxic active Allegheny County air polluter. The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) labels the TMS International plant a “minor” air polluter, but requires the facility to operate with a “major” permit due to its connection with the Edgar Thomson plant. In 2016 and 2017, the Edgar Thomson plant repeatedly violated its emissions limits, and the ACHD eventually partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take enforcement action in November 2017.

The EPA and local environmental groups have identified Braddock as an area with unhealthy levels of air pollution, in part due to steel manufacturing and processing. In 2012, using an EPA grant, the Group Against Smog and Pollution trained local Braddock high schoolers to take air quality measurements around the community. The lowest PM2.5 measurements they recorded were still 57 percent higher than the levels designated in the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

McConway & Torley Foundry

The 150-year-old McConway & Torley steel foundry is the eighth-most toxic active air polluter in Allegheny County (excludes Koppers Inc., which has closed, and reflects changes in TRI reporting by several facilities that changed their ranks since the original publication of this map). Located in Lawrenceville, one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, this plant poses a public health risk to the 147,700 people who live within three miles of it. A draft Clean Air Act permit for the plant was issued for public comment in the fall of 2017, though a final version has not been released.

The facility is less than a mile from Arsenal Middle School and has been the subject of community complaints and official enforcement efforts for many years. Between April 2011 and April 2014, air monitors around the facility recorded average manganese levels that were 50 percent higher than EPA limits.

After years of complaints from residents, pressure from environmental advocates, and legal challenges, the Allegheny County Health Department forced the facility to install better pollution control technology. The upgrades have dramatically lowered toxic emissions, especially of manganese.

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Universal Stainless and Alloy Products

Universal Stainless and Alloy Products is the fifth-most toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. There are approximately 66,100 people within just three miles of this facility, which is located in Bridgeville. The Clean Air Act permit for the plant was last issued in 2017 and is valid through 2022.

In 2016, this steel fabrication plant was the largest emitter of elemental nickel and elemental chromium in the county, and over its lifetime, its reported releases have consisted of toxic metals and metal-containing compounds that have been linked to cancer and nervous system damage. In March 2017, the Allegheny County Health Department found that this plant was emitting more particulate matter, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds than its permit allows for, and issued it a $1,375 penalty.

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USS-Edgar Thomson Plant

U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Plant is the tenth-most toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. There are 89,114 people within three miles of the plant. Six schools are within one and a quarter mile of the plant, including Fairless Elementary School, Homeville Elementary School and West Mifflin Area Middle School.

The Edgar Thomson Plant is a steel production facility located in Braddock and is part of U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works. The plant has a decades-long history of clean air violations. In 2019, for example, the Allegheny County Health Department found that emissions of sulfur dioxide from the plant were endangering public health. The county then issued an enforcement order for U.S. Steel to reduce plant emissions. The emissions occurred after a fire at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works forced the diversion of high-sulfur coke oven gas to the Edgar Thomson and Irvin facilities, where gases were then released from flaring stacks.

In 2016, air pollution from the plant included 36,100 pounds of ammonia, a pollutant that affects the respiratory system; 3,500 pounds of manganese, a pollutant that affects the nervous system; and more than 300 pounds of lead, which causes neurological problems and can affect the nervous system.

Image: Mark Dixon via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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ATI Powder Metals

ATI Powder Metals in Oakdale is the fourth-most toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. Allegheny Technologies Inc. owns both this facility and the Flat Rolled Products (Allegheny Ludlum) plant, which is the second-most toxic air polluter in the county. There are 38,700 people within just three miles of this facility, which manufactures metal alloys and industrial parts made from those alloys, a process that releases hazardous metals like chromium into our air.

Its recent pollution levels are dramatically higher than in the past. By weight, ATI Powder Metals’ releases of toxic metals into the environment were almost three times higher in 2016 than they were in 2012, according to the facility’s reports to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory.

ATI Flat Rolled Products

The ATI Flat Rolled Products facility in Brackenridge, also known as Allegheny Ludlum, is the second-most toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. Approximately 19,000 people live within three miles of this steel plant.

Despite the fact that the Allegheny County Health Department was required to issue a Clean Air Act operating permit for the facility 15 years ago, the county still has not issued it. This county permit would set stricter monitoring requirements for ATI Flat Rolled Products, allowing citizens and regulators to identify violations more quickly, such as the facility’s two Clean Air Act violations in 2017 – one for fugitive emissions (gas leaks from pressurized equipment) and one for particulate matter.

Also in 2017, PennEnvironment, along with the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), the Clean Air Council and Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP), filed a notice to sue this plant because its electric arc furnaces had for years been emitting sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter at levels that violated the Clean Air Act. After the groups filed this notice, the Health Department invited ATI to apply for new, higher limits for these pollutants from the furnaces. In the fall of 2017, the Department issued a new draft operating permit that would dramatically increase the pollution that the furnaces and other processes at the plant are allowed to produce. Under the new draft permit, the plant would be allowed to release many times more pollution than ATI has recently reported.

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USS-Clairton Plant

U.S. Steel’s Clairton Plant, also known as the Clairton Coke Works, is the third-most toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. There are roughly 36,900 people within just three miles of this facility. The Clean Air Act permit for the plant is overdue to be renewed, though a renewal application was submitted in Fall 2016 and is still being reviewed by the Allegheny County Health Department.

The emissions from this plant, the largest manufacturer of coke – a type of refined coal – in the country, may have contributed to health issues in the area. Asthma rates among kids in Clairton are three times higher than they are in the rest of the country, and toxic air pollution has contributed to high cancer risk in the area, according to the EPA’s most recent National Air Toxics Assessment.

Due to multiple emissions violations, the Clairton Coke Works has paid almost $4 million in fines since 2009. From 2012 until 2015, 6,700 air permit violations were reported for this plant, an average of more than four violations per day. U.S. Steel reached an agreement in 2016 with regulators that the county health department said would improve compliance at the facility, but violations continue to occur. According to the EPA’s online enforcement database, as of February 2018, this facility has been out of compliance with the Clean Air Act for 11 of the last 12 quarters.

Cheswick Power Plant

The coal-fired Cheswick Power Plant in Springdale ranks #1 for toxic emissions in Allegheny County. More than 33,600 people live within just three miles of this facility.

In 2016, Cheswick was the largest emitter of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide in the county. It was also the county’s largest emitter of lead and mercury, and one of the top five largest sources of benzene, particulate matter (soot) and carbon monoxide, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

In addition to its county-leading levels of toxic air pollution, the Cheswick Power Plant is a large source of toxic water pollution. In 2015, the plant discharged 387 pounds of lead into the Allegheny River, making it the power plant with the fourth-highest reported releases of lead to water in the United States, according to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory.

The Clean Air Act permit for the plant was last issued in 2017 and expires in 2022. Before the most recent permit was issued, neighbors of the facility fought for stricter pollution limits. Roughly 70 members of the community testified at a hearing about the new permit, and more than 1,000 people signed a petition asking for stronger pollution limits. As a result, the plant’s allowable limits for sulfur dioxide and particulate matter were reduced by roughly half, and the limits for nitrogen oxides reduced by about 70 percent. However, stricter but achievable limits on nitrogen oxides that had been originally proposed in the draft permit were not included in the final version.

Pressure Chemical Company

Pressure Chemical Company is the seventh-most toxic active air polluter in Allegheny County (excludes Koppers Inc., which has closed, and reflects changes in TRI reporting by several facilities that changed their ranks since the original publication of this map). There are 167,600 residents within three miles of this chemical manufacturer, which is located in Lawrenceville, one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Pittsburgh.

This facility is the only one that reported emitting chloroform in Allegheny County in 2016. While Pressure Chemical Company has been releasing toxic pollution into the air since at least 1987, it only started reporting releases of chloroform in 2014. Air exposure to chloroform can impact the renal system, liver and skin. The Clean Air Act permit for the plant was last issued in 2015 and is valid through 2020.

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