PennFuture Thursday filed a notice of its intent to file a citizen suit against U.S. Steel, the Allegheny County Health Department, Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over continuing air pollution violations at the Clairton Coke Works.
The notice was filed under the citizen suit provisions of the federal Clean Air Act and the state Air Pollution Control Act.
“PennFuture, as Pennsylvania’s leading environmental watchdog, has a responsibility to bring suit against egregious illegal polluters and the regulatory agencies that have failed to uphold the law,” said George Jugovic, chief counsel with PennFuture. “It’s unfortunate that U.S. Steel is not a responsible neighbor to the residents of the region and its own employees. The health of our community continues to suffer because of U.S. Steel’s ongoing disregard for environmental regulations.”
“After an exhaustive review of documents, research, and interviews with area residents, PennFuture has revealed that Clairton Coke Works has been in violation of pollution limits approximately 6,700 times from January 1, 2012 to May 31, 2015. That is akin to polluting over five times a day, every day for nearly three and a half years during the period for which we were provided monitoring reports,” explained Jugovic.
“Using data from the EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment, Allegheny County ranks as one of the worst counties in the nation for cancer risk,” said John Graham, senior scientist for Clean Air Task Force. “The assessment indicates toxic emissions from industrial point sources as a primary factor that contributes to the County's poor performance.”
“The data shows that fine particulate matter plumes, like those emitted from the Clairton Coke Works, travel over a wide geographical area and settle as far as the City of Pittsburgh,” said Albert Presto, assistant research professor with Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies and the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “The particulate matter and other emissions don’t simply settle back within the footprint of the facility or even the geographic border of the Liberty-Clairton area.”
“In the Clairton community, we don’t see the black soot that used to be on our bedsheets and windows anymore. But unfortunately, people don’t realize it’s the fine particulate matter that is still in the air that is just as dangerous,” said Cheryl Hurt, 68-year-old Clairton resident and local business owner. “I run a child day care center, so I have a Speck sensor that tells me when it is and when it’s not a good day for the children to go outside. I have to be careful of this, and other people in this community need to be aware of this as well.”
“Unfortunately, each day communities such as Clairton are faced with environmental justice issues such as violations of the Clean Air Act described today. Residents of the Liberty-Clairton area have been negatively impacted by the industrial pollution occurring at Clairton Coke Works for decades at great environmental, economic, and - most importantly - health expense. All members of the community must address these issues and work together to empower those most affected and most vulnerable, and we’re proud to be a part of that effort,” said Michelle Naccarati, executive director of Women for a Healthy Environment.
“The simple fact is that Clairton Coke Works is operating illegally and public health is suffering because of it,” said Jugovic. “They have abandoned plans and failed to take necessary steps to improve air quality and regulatory agencies have failed to take action. While we are disheartened that this legal action is necessary, we stand prepared and ready to work with any and all parties to get the facility into compliance with applicable laws.”
The agencies now have 60 days to respond to the notice.A copy of the notice is available online.
PennFuture Files Notice Of Suit Over Clariton Coke Works