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Neighborhoods near Neville Island concerned about pollution, health threats

Updated:

PITTSBURGH - Dozens of people who live near Neville Island are concerned about pollution and the possible risk to their health.

A new company was recently given permission to release pollution into the air, which some say is causing health problems for people who live nearby.

"Was I stupid to move to a place that I can see the smoke and the fire coming out of the stacks? What kind of fool was I?" said Melanie Holcomb. "I don't want to leave this place. It's our home. But I don't want to breathe air that hurts my family."

Holcomb said her daughter suffers from chronic nosebleeds, and she thinks it's caused by the poor air quality in Ben Avon.

"Moms have said, 'We can't sleep with the windows open because if there's a strong smell at night. The kids wake up with red, watery eyes,'" Holcomb said.

Health studies have linked increased asthma and heart disease to fine-particulate air pollution.

Ben Avon councilman Michael Bett said he is raising a red flag over a new slag-producing facility slated to begin production on Neville Island.

"There is about 14 to 15 tons of pollution coming off of Neville Island every year. To put that into perspective, that is like 76 tractor-trailers worth of pollution. That's like having a major spill on the boulevard every four days," Bett said.

Officials at the Allegheny County Health Department said the health threat is minimal because the company meets federal, state and local regulations. Local environmentalists said they want those regulations changed.

"You need to have stricter guidelines when the plant is in the middle of neighborhoods with schools and doctor's offices," said Clean Water Action's director in western Pennsylvania, Tim Hoffman.

Holcomb took her concerns to a community health department meeting Wednesday night in Bellevue. A recent report showed students in the Northgate School District have an asthma rate nearly three times the national average.

The Allegheny County Health Department said the health threat is minimal, because the company meets federal, state and local regulations for minor air pollution limits.

But local environmentalists want the stricter guidelines when the plant is near residential neighborhoods.

Channel 11 News tried contacting the slag company several times, but was not able to receive comment on the story. The new facility is scheduled to open within the next 18 months.