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‘Toxic Ten' worst air polluters in Allegheny County revealed

PITTSBURGH — The results of a report identifying the “Toxic Ten” worst air polluters in Allegheny County were revealed Tuesday morning.

Allegheny County is in the top 2 percent among counties nationwide for cancer risk from industrial air pollution, a majority of which is released by the Toxic Ten, according to PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center.

“We like to talk about Pittsburgh as a most livable city, but our air is killing us,” Zachary Barber, of PennEnvironment, said.

The following facilities were included on the Toxic Ten list:

  • Cheswick Power Plant
  • ATI Flat Rolled Products
  • USS-Clairton Plant
  • ATI Powder Metals
  • Valspar Coatings
  • Universal Stainless and Alloy Products
  • BPI Inc. – McKees Rocks PA Plant
  • Harsco Metals
  • Pressure Chemical Company
  • McConway & Torley Foundry


PennEnvironment is calling on Allegheny County and its health department to do more to reduce pollution.

Melanie Meade lives in Clairton, not far from the steel plant there.

“It's still very uncomfortable to sit outside with your child and try to play when you're dealing with this fume of rotten eggs that you can't get away from,” Meade said.

The top pollutant for 2015 was not on the 2018 list.

“I think it shows it is possible to continue operating while not exposing your neighbors to toxic risk, and I would be really glad if the next few years we go to redo the list and find that all of these facilities have dropped off,” Barber said.

Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs released the following statement:

Improving our air quality is one of our top priorities, and we have seen real progress over the past four years alone with improvement in ozone and PM2.5. We know that isn't good enough. ACHD is dedicated to improving air quality throughout the county, and is committed to holding polluters accountable for air-quality violations. Every day, inspectors are on site at our major industrial sources, including U.S. Steel's Clairton coke plant, to identify violations. Past ACHD actions have included issuing violations, penalties and consent orders.

Allegheny County has some of the strictest regulations for coke plants in the country, but ACHD understands that more needs to be done to enforce these regulations. ACHD now has additional tools, including new legal resources, to enforce against violators, and ACHD intends to use them.

In November, ACHD, in a joint effort with the EPA, issued a Notice of Violation to U.S. Steel's Edgar Thompson Plant in Braddock after multiple exceedances of the visible emission limits were observed. In the past, ACHD acted alone when dealing with such matters, but now, ACHD is working more in conjunction with the EPA. That allows ACHD to more effectively enforce more regulations (local and federal), levy more significant penalties, and require the necessary equipment upgrades to reduce pollution and improve air quality.

Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Karen Jacker released the following statement:

We appreciate PennEnvironment's commentary regarding air quality in our county. We must hold polluters accountable for air quality violations, and we use all of our resources and tools available to us to enforce regulations. It is important to note that that some releases of toxins are allowed under EPA standards, and they are not considered violations.

In January of 2018, our air quality program updated its civil penalty policy so that higher penalties can be levied for violations. Higher penalties will act as a deterrent for companies that violate clean air standards, and will lead to overall improvements in air quality.

Our air quality continues to improve, and we continue to see the release of toxins decrease each year.

We aim to decrease harmful air pollution to the greatest extent possible to protect public health.