Some residents concerned over potential toxic fumes after fire at Metalico scrap metal plant

NEVILLE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Allegheny County residents and clean air advocates are fired up over the permitting process for the Metalico scrap metal recycling plant on Neville Island.

The plant was the site of a massive fire earlier this month that sent thick smoke high into the air and out across the county.

PHOTOS >>> Emergency crews battle fire at recycling plant in Neville Township

“Noxious emissions from the fire impacted residents in places like McKees Rocks, the North Side, the South Side, and as far away as Dormont,” said Patrick Campbell, the executive director of Group Against Smog and Pollution.

That fire was not the first at Metalico.

The plant previously caught fire in April 2021.

Now, a new five-year operating permit application is before the Allegheny County Health Department.

“ACHD should suspend operations at Metalico and not issue an operating permit until it determines and addresses the cause of this month’s fire,” said Jay Ting Walker, the outreach coordinator for Clean Air Council.

Activist groups like the Breathe Project and Allegheny County Clean Air Now made their voices heard Tuesday night at a public hearing, demanding the new permit require Metalico implement things like a best management practice plan, a fire prevention and response plan, and more air monitoring stations.

“The 2021 fire was not supposed to happen again. We were given reassurances about safety and fire plans were supposed to be created. Fire plans were noticeably absent and lacking in the fire two weeks ago,” said Phoebe Reese, the program director for the Breathe Project.

The health department says it will respond to all comments from the public and consider changes to the operating permit before granting it.

“As long as a company meets the applicable regulations, we will issue that permit. The idea is we want to have an enforceable document. If we deny the permit, then there’s nothing to enforce,” explained JoAnn Truchan, the Engineering and Permitting Program Manager for ACHD Air Quality Program.

The public comment period on Metalico’s permit application closes September 26 at 11:59 pm.

The health department does not have a deadline for when the final permit will be issued.

Channel 11 News reached out to Metalico for comment but has not heard back.

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