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Local Nonprofits Demand Strong Permit for McConway and Torley Steel Foundry

Updated: Feb 21

On September 14, at the Allegheny County Board of Health meeting, a dozen local community and environmental non-profit organizations delivered a letter calling on Dr. Karen Hacker, Director of the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD), to issue an operating permit to the McConway & Torley plant that would prioritize community health by meaningfully reducing emissions of benzene, manganese, and other air pollution from the facility. This follows the efforts of residents who presented 800 petitions in March, calling for a strong permit to be issued in a timely manner.

In April of 2015, the Allegheny County Health Department proposed an operating permit for McConway & Torley that would have significantly reduced the amount of harmful air pollution released, but the permit has still not been issued.

Thanks to all the groups that signed on and all residents concerned about air quality who have stayed focused on this issue.

Full letter:

Dear Dr. Hacker,

We the undersigned organizations urge you to finalize a strong permit for the McConway & Torley steel foundry that includes local emission reductions and improves the air quality for those who live and work in Pittsburgh, especially in the Lawrenceville neighborhood where the plant is located.

Pittsburgh has some of the worst air quality in the country. Our region receives failing grades in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report which places us as the 8th most polluted region nationwide for year-round particle pollution and 14th for short-term particle pollution.

The health effects of air pollution are well-documented. Increased exposure to dirty air can lead to lung disease, asthma, heart attacks, and strokes. According to a University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health study, Allegheny County residents have twice the risk of cancer from air toxins compared to those living in nearby rural areas.

Air pollution-related diseases also led to an estimated 14,636 premature deaths in western Pennsylvania between 2000 and 2008 according to an investigation by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Among the worst polluters in Allegheny County is the McConway and Torley steel foundry in Lawrenceville. The plant was ranked 8th on Penn Environment’s Toxic Ten Report, which ranked point sources within the county, because it is a proven polluter of toxic emissions that are harmful to our health. These include soot, the neurotoxin manganese, and the carcinogen benzene. Based on 2014 reported emissions, McConway & Torley was the third-largest stationary source of benzene and fifth largest stationary source of manganese in Allegheny County. In addition, noxious odors and heavy truck traffic, from the facility impact the quality of life for nearby community members.

Last April, the Health Department proposed a permit for McConway and Torley that would have reduced the release of harmful air toxins, but this permit was pulled for revisions and we are still waiting for a new draft. The more than 147,000 residents living within 3 miles of the facility need a strong permit to be issued in a timely manner.

The new permit needs to prioritize the health of nearby residents. The permit must ensure the facility is operating at levels that prioritizes the health of those in the region and require the continuous use of emission reduction technology such as the baghouses. 

In addition the health department needs to use the most stringent level for assessing manganese, the US EPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). We also need to continue and expand fenceline monitoring, including putting a monitor downwind from the facility and start monitoring for benzene, to get a better assessment of the pollution in the area.

It’s time for McConway & Torley to be a good neighbor and take action to reduce the harmful pollutants they are emitting into our air. That’s why I am writing you to urge you to draft a permit in a timely manner that prioritizes our health and leads to marked reductions in toxic chemicals, especially manganese, benzene, and chromium.


Steve Hvozdovich State Campaigns Director Clean Water Action

Larry Schweiger President Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future

Danielle Crumrine Executive Director Tree Pittsburgh

Scott Bricker Executive Director Bike Pittsburgh

Rachel Filippini Executive Director Group Against Smog and Pollution

Tom Schuster Senior Campaigns Representative Sierra Club

Thaddeus Popovich Co-founder Allegheny County Clean Air Now

Emily Collins Executive Director Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services

Kevin Stewart Director of Environmental Health American Lung Association

Thurm Brendlinger Program Director Clean Air Council

Patrice Tomcik Field Organizer Moms Clean Air Force

Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis Executive Director Women for a Healthy Environment

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