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Lawrenceville Steel Foundry: Have Your Voice Heard on 4/14

The McConway & Torley facility in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood is a steel foundry that produces railcar couplings. Activities at the plant include steel melting, mold-making, and casting. Air pollution from these activities includes particulate matter, benzene, manganese, and other pollutants which not only are likely causing or contributing to foul odors but are harming public health.

Particulate matter can cause or exacerbate asthma and lead to premature death in individuals with heart and lung disease. Benzene is a carcinogen for which there is no known safe exposure level. Manganese is a neurotoxin, and excessive manganese exposure can cause cognitive impairment, mood disturbances, and impaired memory, balance, and coordination.

On April 14, 2015, the Allegheny County Health Department (“ACHD”) Air Quality Program will hold a public hearing on their draft operating permit for this facility to take comments from the public. Please come to and speak at the hearing or write to ACHD to ask them to protect people who live and work in Lawrenceville and beyond from air pollution from McConway & Torley’s plant.

McConway and Torley Public Hearing Tuesday, April 14, 6 p.m. First Floor Conference Room Building 7, Clack Health Center 301 39th Street Pittsburgh, PA 15201

[To register to speak at the hearing, call (412) 578-8103 no later than 4 p.m. on Monday, April 13. Bring printed copies of your testimony to submit at the hearing. Spoken comments are limited to three minutes. ACHD will also accept written comments on the proposed permit. Submit comments to ACHD at address above or by e-mail at Comments must be submitted on or before Tuesday, April 14, 2015.]

The concerns about emissions from McConway & Torley are not new. In 2010, ACHD was preparing to allow the company to reactivate an electric arc furnace. As part of this process, ACHD performed air dispersion modeling that indicated that manganese concentrations beyond the facility fence line exceeded the “IRIS” value, which is the long-term health-based exposure level developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). As a result, ACHD installed an air pollution monitor at the fence line. In addition, McConway & Torley agreed to install more effective pollution controls as part of a settlement agreement with GASP.

The fence line monitor has now operated for nearly four years. Average manganese concentrations at the monitor continue to exceed the USEPA IRIS level. Further, there has been no appreciable improvement in monitored manganese concentrations over the course of the nearly four-year monitoring. From 4/30/11 to 12/19/14, the manganese concentration has averaged 57% higher than the IRIS level, with short-term spikes even higher. [See the monitor results here.]


Not only have manganese levels proven to be a concern, but many other facility emissions likely have been underestimated. In the past, ACHD had allowed facilities to reduce calculated emissions of certain pollutants if those pollutants were released inside a building. The assumption was that the building itself would contain and control those emissions to some extent. In 2014 ACHD reexamined that procedure, and in its own words, found the procedure “to have no technical basis to reference.” In its operating permit application, McConway & Torley had applied a 50% building control reduction to its emission calculations for releases within the facility. Consistent with the revised policy, the Department removed the 50% building reduction and corrected several other emissions underestimations in McConway & Torley’s application.

Based on the revised calculations and McConway & Torley’s current allowable production levels, the facility would be regulated as a “major source” of air pollution under the Clean Air Act. In order for the plant to remain eligible for the minor source operating permit for which it had applied, ACHD reduced McConway & Torley’s allowed production levels to 21,250 tons of steel melted per year.

This limit will result in a substantial reduction in emissions from the facility. For many years, McConway & Torley has benefited from incorrect emission calculation assumptions. ACHD has taken a strong step to protect public health by correcting its own mistaken assumptions.

McConway & Torley has already appealed ACHD’s change in policy because it wants to continue to operate at its current production level without investing in additional measures to reduce emissions. If you are concerned about this, you have an opportunity to make your voice heard. Come to the public hearing or write to ACHD to urge it to stick to its guns and protect people who live and work in Lawrenceville and beyond. McConway & Torley must either operate according to ACHD’s draft permit with corrected emissions estimates and production limits or invest in better pollution controls for its plant, and ACHD must continue to monitor pollution levels at its fence line to make sure the facility’s emissions do not create excessive air pollution in Lawrenceville and nearby communities.

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