Updated: Sep 12, 2022
GASP testified before the Allegheny County Board of Health Wednesday, asking members to do what they could to increase transparency over the status of a 2017 Notice of Violation against U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works and ongoing exceedances of the state hydrogen sulfide standard in the Mon Valley.
Here’s her full testimony:
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony today. I’m Rachel Filippini, the executive director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution.
For years, we have come to this board to express concerns about hydrogen sulfide malodors impacting our community. To the health department’s credit you have attempted to get at the problem by revising the County’s coke oven regulations and deploying more H2S monitors in the Mon Valley.
But at the end of the day the odors and terrible air quality persist and community members are suffering. The health department must do more to acknowledge and address this health and quality of life issue.
In all of 2020, Allegheny County had 25 exceedances of the PA’s hydrogen sulfide standard. So far in 2021, we’ve had 35 exceedances at the Liberty monitor and 12 at the North Braddock monitor and we still have four months to go. Instead of making progress, it appears that the issue is getting worse.
On April 1st, the ACHD issued a Notice of Violation against US Steel for exceedances of the hydrogen sulfide ambient air quality standard at the Liberty monitor. But we have heard nothing since and the H2S exceedances persist.
But it isn’t just odors: Occasionally residents will snap images of dark plumes of black, gray, and brown smoke emanating from the Edgar Thomson facility. Typically, community members are left on their own trying to figure out what may have happened, what toxins are in that smoke now settling over the community, what it is they are smelling, and if anyone is taking steps to prevent it from happening again. Too many inquiries into the health department, using their new on-line form, go unanswered.
Does the board remember that the EPA and ACHD jointly initiated enforcement action against US Steel for ongoing emissions issues at the Braddock facility? That occurred nearly four years ago in November 2017. It was supposed to be the first step in getting the plant back into compliance with both county and federal air quality regulations. But we have heard nothing since.
Hundreds of residents last year joined GASP in demanding ACHD release a substantive public update regarding what upgrades, maintenance, management changes, and fines U.S. Steel would be facing.
The health department’s response was that they would not be commenting on the matter. So now we are forced to go directly to EPA to ask for a fundamental update.
The public deserves answers; it deserves transparency. Ultimately, we deserve cleaner, healthier air to breathe. And we hope ACHD will do all it can to encourage EPA to address this issue promptly.