Protesters gather in Pittsburgh over Clairton Coke Works pollution

PITTSBURGH — Environmental groups and concerned citizens protested Friday in downtown Pittsburgh, demanding that U.S. Steel - which operates the Clairton Coke Works - be held accountable for its pollution problem.

Health and pollution concerns surrounding the coke works have been ongoing since a Dec. 24, 2018, fire at the plant.

You can customize your WPXI News App to receive alerts for Allegheny County news. CLICK HERE to find out how.

“We all have a right to clean air, and we all want to be able to live in Allegheny County without worrying about risks from cancer or air pollution,” Project Breathe executive director Matt Mehalik said.

Recently, a poor air quality alert was issued in Allegheny County, which officials attributed to temperature inversions in which warmer air traps cold air and pollutants. The Allegheny County Health Department announced it is working to curb weather-related pollution issues. (CLICK HERE for more information.)

“It was so bad that when you opened your door you could barely see outside and it was bright daylight and the odor and stench really smelled bad,” Clairton resident Pamela Lee said.

Protesters were also pushing for health department leaders to update regulations and provide more communication and protection to residents.

U.S. Steel, for its part, has agreed to follow improvement rules set by the county and invest $6 million to upgrade its technology. Additionally, it has to pay an $8.5 million settlement for a class action lawsuit over air quality.

But those who gathered at the protest said it comes down on the Health Department to keep a closer eye on violations.

“ACHD you are the steward of our air quality. You’ve lost the public’s trust. Stop playing politics, do your job, protect our health," Squirrel Hill resident Howard Rieger said.