Thom­son mill put on no­tice for mul­ti­ple vi­o­la­tions

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Local news - By Don Hopey

Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette

The Al­legheny County Health Depart­ment and the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency an­nounced a joint en­force­ment ac­tion Tues­day against U.S. Steel Corp.’s Edgar Thom­son mill in Brad­dock for mul­ti­ple air pol­lu­tion and equip­ment vi­o­la­tions.

The joint “No­tice of Vi­o­la­tions” is based on ob­ser­va­tions be­gin­ning in Fe­bru­ary 2016 and con­tin­u­ing into 2017 of ex­ces­sive vis­i­ble emis­sions, and on the com­pany’s fail­ure to main­tain equip­ment and fail­ure to com­ply with the mill’s op­er­at­ing per­mit, known as a Ti­tle V per­mit, is­sued in April 2016.

In a news re­lease, the health depart­ment said it “ac­tively en­gaged” the EPA over the past nine months to take ad­van­tage of the fed­eral agency’s ex­per­tise and

ad­di­tional en­force­ment ca­pac­ity.

“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,” Karen Hacker, the health depart­ment di­rec­tor, said in the re­lease.

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

The fa­cil­ity, which pro­duces steel slabs, is clas­si­fied as a “ma­jor sta­tion­ary source” of air pol­lu­tants, and ac­cord­ing to the health depart­ment, emits ni­tro­gen ox­ides, volatile or­ganic com­pounds, coarse and fine par­tic­u­lates, sul­fur ox­ides, car­bon monox­ide, and haz­ardous air pol­lu­tants, or “HAPs.”

Ac­cord­ing to the no­tice of vi­o­la­tions, health depart­ment and EPA in­spec­tors ob­served fugi­tive emis­sions on sev­eral oc­ca­sions from nu­mer­ous lo­ca­tions in the mill, in­clud­ing the ba­sic oxy­gen process shop, scrub­ber stacks and blast fur­naces. Some of the fugi­tive emis­sions oc­curred over mul­ti­ple months be­cause main­te­nance work was not com­pleted.

In one case, in­spec­tors ob­served fugi­tive emis­sions com­ing from near the top of the ba­sic oxy­gen process shop in Fe­bru­ary 2016 and again in March 2017. Each time they were told by the com­pany that the vi­o­la­tion oc­curred be­cause a door had been left open by main­te­nance work­ers.

An­other vi­o­la­tion cited a valve mal­func­tion at the mill’s la­dle met­al­lur­gi­cal fa­cil­ity bag­house that “posed the sub­stan­tial like­li­hood of re­lease of po­ten­tially haz­ardous or toxic dust . . .”

The no­tice of vi­o­la­tions is a first step and, ac­cord­ing to the health depart­ment re­lease, be­gins the process of de­ter­min­ing the nec­es­sary penal­ties and re­quired equip­ment im­prove­ments to re­turn the plant to com­pli­ance with all fed­eral and county air qual­ity pol­lu­tion re­quire­ments.

Meghan Cox, a U.S. Steel spokes­woman, said the com­pany had re­ceived the no­tice “and will work with the ACHD and EPA to re­solve any is­sues.”

The en­force­ment ac­tion comes just two weeks after more than a dozen county res­i­dents spoke at an Al­legheny County Health Depart­ment board of di­rec­tors meet­ing to com­plain about the on­go­ing pol­lu­tion and smell as­so­ci­ated with sev­eral Mon Val­ley in­dus­trial sites, in­clud­ing the Clair­ton Coke Works and the Edgar Thom­son mill.

Jac­qui Bonomo, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the statewide en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion Pen­nFu­ture, said she is re­serv­ing judg­ment on the en­force­ment ac­tion.

“A true indi­ca­tion of the depart­ment’s in­ten­tion will be re­vealed when we see the cor­rec­tive ac­tion re­quired of U.S. Steel at Edgar Thom­son,” Ms. Bonomo said, “and when we see fines com­men­su­rate with the dam­age be­ing done to the health of our com­mu­ni­ties.”

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