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U.S. Steel Fined Nearly $13K for (Again) Violating Air Quality Regs

Updated: Mar 25

Allegheny County Health Department has issued two enforcement orders against U.S. Steel for violating local air pollution regulations – violations that led to ACHD assessing nearly $13,000 in civil penalties.

A Jan. 25 enforcement order posted to the ACHD website Tuesday evening detailed a failed Oct. 19, 2019, stack test at Clairton Coke Works’ C Battery where emissions for filterable particulate matter exceeded the limit established in U.S. Steel’s installation permit. The equipment was retested on Feb. 27, 2020, and again demonstrated failure to comply. A second retest conducted on June 16, 2020, indicated compliance.

ACHD assessed a civil penalty of $8,800.

On Feb. 19 the health department issued a second enforcement order against U.S. Steel – this time for the company’s failure to submit a report about a May 26, 2020, equipment breakdown that led to “a release into the open air of approximately 100 pounds of anhydrous ammonia.”

A quick word on anhydrous ammonia: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified it as a toxic chemical.

“Accidental ammonia releases cause injuries and death to employees, emergency response personnel, and people in surrounding communities,” the EPA wrote in a safety manual about the air toxic. “Anhydrous ammonia is very corrosive, and exposure to it may result in chemical-type burns to skin, eyes, and lungs.” 

The enforcement order notes that county air pollution regulations require companies like U.S. Steel to report equipment failures that lead to open-air releases within 60 minutes.

ACHD noted that U.S. Steel notified both federal and state officials, but that “As of the date of this order, U.S. Steel has not submitted a breakdown report…for the equipment failure.”

A civil penalty of $4,165 was assessed.

“These non-compliance issues with U.S. Steel are concerning but not surprising – we have seen a pattern of violations going back decades,” GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini said. “The ongoing emissions issues and lack of transparency over equipment breakdowns – like the one that led to the high-profile 2019 fire – is shameful for a company that claims it ‘lives its core value of environmental stewardship.’

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