Steel Mills

Damage at U.S. Steel Clairton Plant Prompts Air Quality Warning

Written by Sandy Williams

Residents near U.S. Steel’s Clairton plant were told to limit outdoor activities on Wednesday due to sulfur dioxide emissions following a December fire at the Pennsylvania coke works.

“We have been closely monitoring this issue since we were first notified of the fire on December 24th. While the plant has substituted natural gas for coke oven gas and extended coking time, there have been four exceedances,” said Jim Kelly, Deputy Director for Environmental Health. “While their strategies appeared to be addressing their emissions, the data from yesterday morning showed two exceedances of the federal hourly standards. We had previously required additional controls be implemented to address each new exceedance. Following yesterday’s exceedances, the plant implemented additional actions to address the issue. We will continue monitoring the situation and consider requiring additional action, including enforcement actions, if necessary.”

The fire at 4:15 a.m. on Christmas Eve damaged two gas dispatcher stations, affecting systems that clean the coke oven gas and resulting in higher than usual sulfur dioxide emissions.

U.S. Steel said it is addressing the situation and coke production has been reduced due to longer baking times. The incident does not affect the company’s steel production.

“As we continue to investigate, we have employed significant efforts to mitigate [sulfur dioxide],” said U.S. Steel spokeswoman Meghan Cox. “We will bring the facility back to normal operations as conditions allow, while keeping safety of the community and our employees at the forefront.”

“Safety is a core value at U.S. Steel, and we are devoting all available resources to ensure this matter is resolved as quickly as possible,” she said.

In June, U.S. Steel was fined more than $1 million for ongoing violations of air-quality agreements at the Clairton coke works. U.S. Steel is appealing the fine, arguing that the penalty is too severe and exceeds the authority of the Allegheny County Health Department.

Said U.S. Steel in a statement, “We reiterate our stated objections to the flawed process and factual basis on which the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) based its June Order, and we will continue with the appeals process. We remain committed to improving our process through investments in personnel, procedure and capital to meet the County’s standards, which are the highest in the country.”

Clairton Plant is located approximately 20 miles south of Pittsburgh in Clairton, Pa., on the west bank of the Monongahela River. It is the largest coke manufacturing facility in the United States, operating 10 coke oven batteries and producing approximately 4.3 million tons of coke annually. The plant serves customers in the commercial coke market as well as U.S. Steel’s steelmaking facilities.

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