More air monitors being installed after dangerous gas release in Clairton

PITTSBURGH — More sulfur dioxide monitors are being placed in the Mon Valley after a December fire at a U.S. Steel plant in Clairton released an alarming amount of the gas into the surrounding area.

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The Allegheny County Health Department said Wednesday that monitors will be placed at the Clairton Education Center and in an area near U.S. Steel’s Irvin Works in West Mifflin. The company is paying for those monitors, the department said.

The Dec. 24 fire at the Clairton Coke Works seriously damaged its gas processing operations. Monitors in the surrounding area registered six sulfur dioxide spikes above federal standards over the next two weeks, leading the health department to issue an advisory on Jan. 9.

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No spikes have been detected since Jan. 8, the department said Wednesday. Additionally, emergency room data does not indicate there has been an increase in visits for health issues associated with sulfur dioxide inhalation, the department said.

Sulfur dioxide presents a risk to people with asthma, individuals with bronchitis or emphysema, children, and the elderly.

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An investigation into the fire is ongoing, but U.S. Steel reported that the fire started after a gas compressor failed. The company set up a microsite to provide updates on efforts to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions and the timeline for repairs.

The health department is posting daily at 3 p.m. with monitor data from the prior 24-hour period on its website and Facebook page as well as being sent to subscribers to Allegheny Alerts.