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UPDATED: Allegheny Co. Health Dept. Issues $1.8 Million Fine Against U.S. Steel for H2S Emissions

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

Editor’s Note: The Allegheny County Health Department issued the following news release Monday morning. The release followed GASP’s publication of a blog highlighting a recent report that places the blame for years of hydrogen sulfide exceedances “entirely” on U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works facility. Check back, we are following this issue closely and will update you when more information becomes available.

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) today announced that it has issued a penalty of $1,842,530 against the United States Steel Corporation Clairton Coke Plant for 153 Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) hourly exceedances between January 1, 2020, through March 1, 2022.

H2S emissions result in a rotten egg smell and have resulted in longstanding quality of life complaints from residents experiencing the exceedances.

“While Allegheny County has been in attainment with federal air standards for two years, we still recognize that there is much to do to ensure that we continue to improve the quality of life of those who call this county home,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “I commend the Health Department for taking this extraordinary step that was over a year in its making and thank them for continued commitment and efforts to hold polluters accountable.”

The exceedances were recorded at the Liberty Borough air monitoring station (Liberty Monitor). The fine is the first penalty issued by the Health Department against a single source for H2S exceedances.

“As Health Department Director, I’ve made it a priority to empower our Air Quality (AQ) Program staff to aggressively protect the rights of all county residents and visitors to clean, healthy air,” said Dr. Debra Bogen, Allegheny County Health Department Director. “All sources of pollution are held to the same standards, and we will continue to hold accountable any company or facility that does not meet those standards. I applaud the hard work and diligence of our AQ team in collecting and analyzing the voluminous amount of data that resulted in today’s action, and I hope residents do, too.”

Pennsylvania’s ambient air quality standards limit concentrations of H2S to 0.005 parts per million per 24-hour period. These ambient standards are incorporated into ACHD’s regulations. Data analyzed by the AQ Team identified 46 days of violation in 2020, 94 in 2021, and 13 from January 1 to March 1, 2022.

The Health Department recently completed a study of H2S concentrations recorded at the Liberty Monitor, which is available online on the Air Quality Reports and Studies page, under the heading of Other Air Quality Studies. The study demonstrated through analysis of monitored data that the source of the H2S exceedances was the Clairton Coke Plant. Other potential sources of H2S were evaluated and eliminated as contributors to measured H2S concentrations at the Liberty Monitor.

The $1.8 million penalty was determined by several factors, including the number of violations, the severity of each violation, Title V major source status, and the company’s compliance history.

The enforcement order is publicly available on the Air Quality Enforcement Actions page of the Health Department’s website or you can download it here.

GASP thanks ACHD for taking the enforcement action.

“ACHD’s latest enforcement action against U.S. Steel confirms what so many of us long suspected: That U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works is solely to blame for the ongoing exceedances of Pennsylvania’s 24-hour average standard. This has been a long time coming,” GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell said. “GASP thanks the ACHD for the comprehensive report that helped spur the $1.8 million fine. Hopefully, this is the first of many steps the health department will take to rectify this issue once and for all because Mon Valley communities have endured poor air quality for far too long.”

Media coverage of the hydrogen sulfide enforcement action against U.S. Steel:

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