Letter to the Editor and GASP Response

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Hotline, Spring 2000

Dear Editor:

The Allegheny County Health Department appreciates GASP’s recognition of the enforcement action taken at the Edgar Thomson Works of U.S. Steel in Braddock (HOTLINE, Winter 2000). We also acknowledge that this area had experienced dustfall problems for many years, although beginning last year the monitors in Braddock now also meet this Pennsylvania standard. Braddock has been meeting the health-based federal particulate standards (PM-10) for many years. Regardless, we continue to inspect and track performance of the plant.

However, GASP’s letter on the consent decree, which was reprinted in the HOTLINE, contains two errors of fact which should not go uncorrected. The consent decree in no way inhibits our ability or right to do unannounced inspections. In fact it provides for complete access to the plant and we will continue to perform surprise inspections on a routine basis and in response to complaints we receive.

Also, while stipulated penalties for violations may be waived once a compliance plan is submitted, additional penalties could still result if the company fails to implement the plan.

As for not informing the Advisory Commiottee, I personally remember listing the Edgar Thomson BOP shop for the Committee as among the three significant violators in the County when the issue was discussed a while back. Complaints were filed on all three and consent decrees have been signed on two of the violators, Shenango and Edgar Thomson. There is ongoing court case on LTV.

The two consent decrees require the payment of significant penalties and action to correct the problems. County residents will have even better air quality.

Roger C. Westman
Allegheny County Health Department Air Quality Program

GASP Response:

GASP stands firm on the letter published in winter edition of HOTLINE, in particular our interpretation of the section of the Edgar Thomson Consent Decree that addresses the ability of ACHD to do unannounced inspections. We offer this language quoted from the Consent Decree dated 8-24-99, page 27 section A of IX. ACCESS TO THE EDGAR THOMSON PLANT, INSPECTIONS AND SAMPLING: “In all inspections carried out pursuant to the Section IX. A., such persons shall announce their presence and display their credentials to the plant environmental contact for the Edgar Thomson Plant or the manager of the office or laboratory and shall notify Edgar Thomson Plant personnel whey they anticipate making photographic or sound recordings.”

On the other issue of the current procedure of keeping the Advisory Committee adequately informed, I think that this is the more important concern. There have been several significant events/issues that have been given very little attention by the ACHD staff in regard to the Advisory Committee. This can seriously hamper the effectiveness of this Committee and has been a topic of conversation among members who feel unprepared and ill-equipped to respond to community issues and concerns at Committee meetings due to this lack of adequate and timely information. In order to provide thoughtful advice to the Air Quality Program of ACHD, we and the public must be informed in a substantive manner in advance; and it is incumbent on the Air Quality staff to bring all topics of significance to our attention. If we (and the public) are not properly alerted, the Committee will function merely as a rubber stamp on already completed actions and projects.

In conclusion, a topic that has serious implication for the improvement to air quality in Allegheny County (such as the Edgar Thomson Consent Decree) should be given more than a casual mention. Frequent and detailed updates on such important actions are esential.