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Clairton Coke Works pollution controls back online after fire

CLAIRTON, Pa. — A fire broke out early Monday morning at U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works.

The electrical equipment fire was reported shortly after 4:30 a.m. at the facility, which also had a fire on Dec. 24, according to the Allegheny County Health Department. Control rooms 1,2 and 5 were shut down because of the fire, which was put out a short time later.

Officials said control rooms 2 and 5 hold the equipment and controls necessary to clean the coke oven gases. They are the same rooms that were shut down following the fire in December.

While the control rooms were offline, there was no desulfurization of coke oven gas.

The health department said it was notified Monday night by U.S. Steel that all the control rooms and the desulfurization process were back online. Inspectors were sent to the plant Tuesday morning to confirm that.

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A spokesperson for U.S. Steel said sulfur dioxide did not exceed acceptable levels as measured by nearby air quality monitors.

During the equipment outage, health officials urged sensitive people, including children, the elderly and those with respiratory issues, to be aware of the potential for elevated levels of SO2, but there was “no need for residents to take specific precautions at this time.”

U.S. Steel released a statement following Monday morning's fire. It said, in part:

"Early this morning, Monday, June 17, a small electrical fire was detected on an electrical breaker panel impacting power to the by-products facility of our Clairton Plant. There were no injuries and the fire was quickly extinguished. Immediately, steps were taken to mitigate environmental impacts."

The health department issued an emergency order Monday afternoon, demanding U.S. Steel fix their systems to comply with hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide limits.

The order said the company had 24 hours to submit a plan that would bring the plant into compliance within the next 20 days. If U.S. Steel was unable to meet that deadline, the health department said it would order all coking operations shut down.

Read the full emergency order here.

The health department released the following statement Tuesday:

"Yesterday, ACHD issued an emergency order to repair or shut down the plant. As desulfurization has been restored, the concerns of the order have been met. ACHD remains concerned about redundancies to equipment and will be continuing to push U.S. Steel to address that concern and ensure that a failure such as this can be avoided in the future."


Channel 11 talked with people living nearby the plant, who are still dealing with the effects of the issues from late last year. People said they are upset to hear there was another fire at the plant and another health advisory issued.

"They don't seem to be knowing what they should be doing to keep us safe," Dee Smith said. "You know, it’s funny, I was out of town shopping and when I hit Clairton, I noticed my voice and the burning in my throat, and last night I slept with the windows open. But I think I'm going to turn my air on and keep my windows closed."

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said hospitals have backup plans and U.S. Steel should, too.