For Immediate Release:
April 13, 2015
Rachel Filippini, Group Against Smog and Pollution, (412) 924-0604 or 724-972-9885, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tina Gaser, community member, (412) 480-1675
Timothy Verstynen, community member, email@example.com
Lawrenceville Residents Back Health Department Action to Tackle Pollution from McConway & Torley Steel Foundry
Pittsburgh – Lawrenceville residents and environmentalists are lining up to testify at an Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) hearing tomorrow night to support stronger rules to cut toxic air pollution from the McConway & Torley steel foundry. Emissions from the foundry are polluting the air that residents and visitors to Lawrenceville breathe on a daily basis, and the ACHD has proposed an operating permit that will reduce dangerous pollution from the plant. The Health Department’s public hearing on this permit takes place Tuesday, April 14th at 6 p.m.
“Many days my husband and I awaken feeling ‘foggy in the head,’ with our throats and eyes burning. These feelings always coincide with the thick, heavy odors we associate with that plant. The operating permit the ACHD has drafted is a greatly needed first step in cleaning up the air of Lawrenceville and ultimately, Allegheny County,” said Tina Gaser, a resident living within one block of the facility.
“To affectively protect the community from air pollution we need to ensure that McConway & Torley follows the law. ACHD is doing the right thing in ensuring they have a strong operating permit. We need to clean up Allegheny County’s air and this is a good step to truly making Pittsburgh into the “most-livable city” we know that it could be,” said Cassi Steenblok, Program Organizer at Clean Water Action and Lawrenceville resident.
The McConway & Torley facility in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood produces railcar couplings. Air pollution from steel melting, mold-making, and casting at the plant includes particulate matter (soot), benzene, manganese, and other toxic pollutants which contribute to foul odors and make people sick. Manganese is a neurotoxin, and excessive exposure can cause cognitive impairment, mood disturbances, and impaired memory, balance, and coordination. Benzene is a carcinogen for which there is no known safe exposure level. Particulate matter can cause or exacerbate asthma and lead to premature death in individuals with heart and lung disease.
“Studies show that Lawrenceville has some of the highest levels of ultrafine particulate matter pollution in Pittsburgh and much higher levels than similar neighborhoods in other cities,” said Dr. Timothy Verstynen, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and Lawrenceville resident. “Exposure to this kind of toxic soot, similar to that found in Lawrenceville, has been associated with cognitive deficits in older adults, reduced integrity of brain structures, especially in children, and overall increased mortality rates. Given how many residents live downwind of the factory, monitoring and reducing this form of pollution should be a priority for the county and the city.”
A monitor at the company’s fence line recorded manganese concentrations from 4/30/11 to 12/19/14 which on average were 57 percent higher than the US EPA IRIS level, with spikes that are even higher. IRIS is a program that evaluates information on human health effects that could result from exposure to environmental pollution.
“Manganese is a neurotoxin. Nobody should have to breathe it every day, especially children whose brains are still developing,” added Rachel Filippini, Executive Director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP). “In 2015, you would not build a factory that emits toxic pollution right in the middle of a densely packed community. For many years, McConway & Torley has benefited from incorrect assumptions about how much pollution it creates. People are supporting the ACHD’s action to correct those mistakes and to protect children and families from the pollution coming from the foundry day-in and day-out.”
The ACHD has consistently underestimated the facility’s toxic emissions. Previously, the ACHD allowed facilities to reduce calculated emissions of certain pollutants if those pollutants were released inside a building. The erroneous assumption was that the building itself would contain and control those emissions to some extent. In 2014 the ACHD reexamined that procedure, and in its own words, found the procedure “to have no technical basis to reference.” In its operating permit application, McConway & Torley had applied a 50 percent building control reduction to its emission calculations for releases within the facility. Consistent with the revised policy, the ACHD removed the 50 percent building reduction and corrected several other emissions underestimations in McConway & Torley’s application.
In order for the plant to remain eligible for the minor source operating permit for which it had applied, the ACHD reduced McConway & Torley’s allowed production levels to 21,250 tons of steel melted per year. This limit will result in a substantial reduction in emissions from the facility.
“GASP Issues 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue Shenango Coke Works,” February 12, 2014.
“American Lung Association Releases Annual Air Quality Report,” April 27, 2011.
“Liberty-Clairton Clean Air Plan Inadequate,” January 22, 2010.
“Air Quality forecasts don’t always warn of high air pollution days,” November 16, 2009.
“Public Expresses Opposition to Proposed Article XXI Changes,” April 13, 2009.