The ATI Flat Rolled Products facility in Brackenridge, also known as Allegheny Ludlum, produced the most-toxic air pollution of any Allegheny County polluter reporting to the federal Toxics Release Inventory. Nearly 40,000 people live within three miles of this steel plant. The plant operates without ever having been issued a required Clean Air Act Title V operating permit, a critical tool for enforcement and public accountability.
ATI Flat Rolled Products has received at least 40 formal and informal clean air enforcement actions since 1990, including a $107,000 penalty in 2020 for violating the Clean Air Act. Between April and June 2020, ATI was found to have committed four violations of clean air standards because of fugitive emissions from a nearby facility processing the plant’s slag (Harsco Metals, #2 of the Toxic 10) that were coating nearby neighborhoods— a problem the two companies have been aware of for years and have yet to solve.
In 2017, PennEnvironment, along with the Environmental Integrity Project, the Clean Air Council and Group Against Smog and Pollution, filed a notice to sue this plant alleging 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. The facility was allowed to exceed permitted levels of sulfur dioxide for more than a decade, but after the groups filed this notice, ATI received a $50,000 penalty from the Allegheny County Health Department and was then invited to apply for new, higher limits for these pollutants from the furnaces. In July 2020, ATI received a $1,320 penalty from the health department for violating pollution limits at the plant.
The Harsco Metals plant in Natrona is the second-most-toxic air polluter in Allegheny County, driven in large part by high emissions of chromium compounds. There are more than 33,600 residents within three miles of this scrap metal and slag reprocessing facility.
Harsco Metals processes steel slag from the neighboring ATI Flat Rolled Products plant, which produced the most-toxic air pollution in the county. Harsco releases toxic metals such as chromium, manganese and lead to the air. The company’s pollution has continued despite multiple notices of violation and fines from the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD).
Slag from the facility is processed in the open air, resulting in dust that often becomes airborne and contaminates nearby neighborhoods. Dust from Harsco Metals’ facility has coated cars, toys and houses in a nearby community for years and the company acknowledges that it doesn’t know how to solve the problem. Only after pressure from residents and the threat of legal action from the Group Against Smog and Pollution in 2017 did ACHD force Harsco to install equipment to control the dust in 2018. In spite of that new equipment, Harsco and ATI were issued four violations between April and June 2020 due to continued fugitive emissions from slag processing and were fined just $6,000. In January 2020, Harsco was called into a consent agreement with ACHD requiring the company to construct a building to enclose its slag operations.
Harsco has questioned whether the EPA data on which this analysis is based is an accurate representation of the toxicity of its releases to air. Future updates to EPA’s data may result in a change in Harsco’s ranking within the Toxic Ten.
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 36,500 people living within three miles of this facility. The Clairton plant has been in violation of the Clean Air Act in every quarter of the three years ending in June 2021 and has been fined over $5 million since 2014. The emissions from this plant, the nation’s largest manufacturer of coke (a type of refined coal), can affect public health.
Over the years, the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) and U.S. Steel have negotiated a series of consent orders in which U.S. Steel has pledged to make improvements at the facility and bring it into compliance with clean air laws. Those agreements, however, have repeatedly been violated. The facility was issued the largest fine in ACHD history in 2018, along with an order to make emissions improvements or idle the worst-performing parts of the facility. After extended legal appeals by U.S. Steel, ACHD ultimately reached a settlement that maintained the financial penalties but walked back some of the other requirements, including the threat of shutdown. Money from this settlement was put into a “Community Benefits Trust” that critics have argued lacks transparency. This settlement also limited ACHD’s ability to implement future regulations at the Coke Works.
In 2018, a fire at the facility knocked out critical emission control units – the second such outage in a decade – triggering 10 exceedances of federal health standards for sulfur dioxide over a span of 14 weeks, and leading ACHD to warn Mon Valley residents to limit their outdoor activity. In 2019, PennEnvironment and the Clean Air Council filed a Clean Air Act lawsuit against U.S. Steel, later joined by ACHD as an intervenor, for thousands of violations resulting from the fire.
In 2020, ACHD unveiled proposed updates to county regulations governing the Clairton Coke Works, which were met with vocal oppositionfrom U.S. Steel. The new regulations would improve inspection procedures and clarify existing pollution limits, but still contain loopholes allowing the oldest, dirtiest parts of the facility to pollute at much higher levels than the rest of the facility. In 2021 U.S. Steel announced the closing of three of Clairton’s coke batteries by the start of 2023, which is expected to reduce air pollution from the facility.
Universal Stainless and Alloy Products is the fourth-most-toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. There are nearly 66,000 people within just three miles of this specialty steel producer, which is located in Bridgeville. The Title V Clean Air Act permit for the plant was last issued in 2017 and is valid through 2022.
In 2019 this facility had the second-highest recorded emissions of chromium and chromium compounds in the county. Over its lifetime, the facility has reported releases of toxic metals and metal-containing compounds 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 and issued it a $1,375 penalty.
Thermal Transfer Corp. in Duquesne, which supplies industrial heat exchangers, is the fifth-most-toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. There are approximately 78,600 people who live within three miles of this facility.
Three schools are within two miles of this facility, including Duquesne Elementary School and Homeville Elementary School. The facility emits two metals, chromium and nickel, that affect the respiratory system and which can be particularly damaging for children. These substances are also cancer-causing, and chromium VI can have developmental, and reproductive effects as well.
Holtec Manufacturing is the sixth-most-toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. Nearly 70,000 people live within three miles of this facility. The metal fabrication plant, located in Turtle Creek, makes equipment for nuclear power plants and for storing nuclear waste.
Holtec Manufacturing is located less than two miles from two elementary schools. It was the county’s seventh-highest emitter for air releases of chromium and chromium compounds in 2019, which affect the respiratory system and can be particularly damaging for children. Chromium VI is also cancer-causing, and can have developmental, and reproductive effects as well.
Cheswick Power Plant in Springdale is the last remaining coal-fired electric generating plant in Allegheny County, and ranks seventh in the county for toxic air emissions, having previously been ranked first in 2016. Nearly 33,600 people live within just three miles of this facility.
In 2018 and 2019, Cheswick exceeded the daily limit for sulfur dioxide emissions on 13 separate days, thereby violating the Allegheny County Health Department’s Air Pollution Control Regulations and presenting risk for the health of county residents, especially children and people with asthma. The facility was penalized over $32,000 by the ACHD. It has had an ongoing high-priority violation of the Clean Air Act due to high levels of sulfur dioxide every quarter from mid-2019 to early 2021.
In 2020, the Cheswick plant was shown to be taking advantage of a loophole in Pennsylvania’s regulations that allowed the facility to turn off pollution controls meant to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides at certain times of day. A federal appeals court then ordered the state to revise these rules, as the loophole allowed Cheswick to not comply with emissions limits according to the Sierra Club.
The Title V 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 that would reduce smog-causing nitrogen oxide pollution by 75 percent compared to 2014 levels.
U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works Edgar Thomson Plant, located in Braddock, is the eighth-most-toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. There are more than 90,000 people living 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 facility had violations of the Clean Air Act due to high levels of sulfur dioxide emissions from the start of 2019 through early 2021, as well as an additional violation for particulate matter from mid-2020 through March 2021. In 2019, the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) found that emissions of sulfur dioxide from the plant were endangering public health and issued an enforcement order for U.S. Steel to reduce plant emissions. The ACHD issued another enforcement order in 2020 for visible emissions. The company was also sued in 2019 by PennEnvironment and other organizations for its alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.
For four decades, county, state and federal officials have attempted to rein in pollution from the plant and U.S. Steel’s other facilities in the Mon Valley. Since 1990, the plant has been the target of 12 formal and informal enforcement actions. Two of the most recent incidents, one violation in 2017 for visible emissions and failure to maintain equipment, and another incident from 2020 for an ominous plume of red-brown smoke, remained unresolved as of early 2021, with no penalties having been assessed or corrective action ordered according to the Group Against Smog and Pollution. Yet, the plant continued to put residents of Braddock and neighboring communities at risk.
Carpenter Powder Products, Inc., located in Bridgeville, manufactures custom metal powders and is the ninth-most-toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. Nearly 66,000 people live within three miles of this facility. The plant is located less than half a mile from the Great Southern Shopping Center, and less than a mile from Chartiers Valley High School.
The facility has the second-highest air emissions of cobalt and cobalt compounds in the county for 2019, which affect the cardiovascular system and respiratory system and can also have developmental effects. The facility is also the county’s third-highest emitter of nickel, which affects the respiratory system and is cancer-causing.
PPG Industries, Inc., in Springdale, a paint manufacturing plant, is the tenth-most-toxic air polluter in Allegheny County. Approximately 33,000 people live within three miles of this facility. In 2016, the company paid $59,000 to settle alleged violations of hazardous waste regulations, according to the EPA.
The facility is a major source of volatile organic compounds emissions. In 2019 it was the second-highest emitter of naphthalene to the air in the county and the highest emitter of ethylbenzene, two chemicals that affect the nervous system and are cancer-causing. Naphthalene and ten other chemicals emitted from this facility also affect the respiratory system, which can be particularly damaging for children. There are 2 schools, including an elementary school, within 2 miles of the facility.