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Lawrenceville Steel Foundry: Have Your Voice Heard on 4/14

The McConway & Torley facility in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood is a steel foundry that produces railcar couplings. Activities at the plant include steel melting, mold-making, and casting. Air pollution from these activities includes particulate matter, benzene, manganese, and other pollutants which not only are likely causing or contributing to foul odors but are harming public health.

Particulate matter can cause or exacerbate asthma and lead to premature death in individuals with heart and lung disease. Benzene is a carcinogen for which there is no known safe exposure level. Manganese is a neurotoxin, and excessive manganese exposure can cause cognitive impairment, mood disturbances, and impaired memory, balance, and coordination.

On April 14, 2015, the Allegheny County Health Department (“ACHD”) Air Quality Program will hold a public hearing on their draft operating permit for this facility to take comments from the public. Please come to and speak at the hearing or write to ACHD to ask them to protect people who live and work in Lawrenceville and beyond from air pollution from McConway & Torley’s plant.

McConway and Torley Public Hearing
Tuesday, April 14, 6 p.m.
First Floor Conference Room
Building 7, Clack Health Center
301 39th Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201

[To register to speak at the hearing, call (412) 578-8103 no later than 4 p.m. on Monday, April 13. Bring printed copies of your testimony to submit at the hearing. Spoken comments are limited to three minutes. ACHD will also accept written comments on the proposed permit. Submit comments to ACHD at address above or by e-mail at aqpermits@achd.net. Comments must be submitted on or before Tuesday, April 14, 2015.]

The concerns about emissions from McConway & Torley are not new. In 2010, ACHD was preparing to allow the company to reactivate an electric arc furnace. As part of this process, ACHD performed air dispersion modeling that indicated that manganese concentrations beyond the facility fence line exceeded the “IRIS” value, which is the long-term health-based exposure level developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). As a result, ACHD installed an air pollution monitor at the fence line. In addition, McConway & Torley agreed to install more effective pollution controls as part of a settlement agreement with GASP.

The fence line monitor has now operated for nearly four years. Average manganese concentrations at the monitor continue to exceed the USEPA IRIS level. Further, there has been no appreciable improvement in monitored manganese concentrations over the course of the nearly four-year monitoring. From 4/30/11 to 12/19/14, the manganese concentration has averaged 57% higher than the IRIS level, with short-term spikes even higher. [See the monitor results here.]

M&TGraph

Not only have manganese levels proven to be a concern, but many other facility emissions likely have been underestimated. In the past, ACHD had allowed facilities to reduce calculated emissions of certain pollutants if those pollutants were released inside a building. The assumption was that the building itself would contain and control those emissions to some extent. In 2014 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% building control reduction to its emission calculations for releases within the facility. Consistent with the revised policy, the Department removed the 50% building reduction and corrected several other emissions underestimations in McConway & Torley’s application.

Based on the revised calculations and McConway & Torley’s current allowable production levels, the facility would be regulated as a “major source” of air pollution under the Clean Air Act. In order for the plant to remain eligible for the minor source operating permit for which it had applied, 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. For many years, McConway & Torley has benefited from incorrect emission calculation assumptions. ACHD has taken a strong step to protect public health by correcting its own mistaken assumptions.

McConway & Torley has already appealed ACHD’s change in policy because it wants to continue to operate at its current production level without investing in additional measures to reduce emissions. If you are concerned about this, you have an opportunity to make your voice heard. Come to the public hearing or write to ACHD to urge it to stick to its guns and protect people who live and work in Lawrenceville and beyond. McConway & Torley must either operate according to ACHD’s draft permit with corrected emissions estimates and production limits or invest in better pollution controls for its plant, and ACHD must continue to monitor pollution levels at its fence line to make sure the facility’s emissions do not create excessive air pollution in Lawrenceville and nearby communities.

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8 Comments

  1. Mary Kramer says:

    This should be a major concern to everyone not just those who live in Lawrenceville. If the Mayor wants a greener, healthier city then we cannot allow our companies to pollute our skies, water, soil or bodies. City gov’t should be firmly behind this

  2. Donovan Foster says:

    I attended the last meeting.I find it very interesting that the gasp group could not produce strong hard facts in regards to questions that were asked in reference to their presentation.
    What I heard were scare tactics to generate fear in the community without producing evidence or having the knowledge to answer questions that were asked.
    I also heard in the meeting that there was another baghouse purchased by McConway & Torley which is caught in the permitting process because gasp is opposing the permit and slowing the process of installation which has me questioning their motives and their true dedication the the cause they say they represent.

    1. Jamin says:

      Sorry you got those impressions. Hopefully this article explains our concerns more clearly. Our goals are to ensure the facility’s compliance with the law and to better protect public health, and this permit helps to do that. Please email me with any questions.

  3. Barbara Pace says:

    I was in attendance at a meeting with the workers from this plant. Some of us actually witnessed the supervisors handing notes to their employees who did the majority of the speaking. They were more than angry. They came with the idea that the meeting was held to cause them to loose their jobs. It was virtually impossible to impart the health issues confronting them as workers in the plant, as well as, those who reside within the region.

    I drove down Butler Street last evening 3/26/2015 and the odor was headache inducing and foul. Ironically, as I continued towards my destination there was a terrible odor of gas leaking as I got closer to the Highland Park / Zoo area.

    My headache as a result of both pollutions is still with me today. bp

    1. Jamin says:

      Sorry that we didn’t clear our concerns. I hope this post helps explain some of that. Please email us if you have further questions.

  4. Jeff Stuncard says:

    I just moved here. The air quality was my foremost concern in possibly not coming here.
    I expect the local government to do their job and protect the local residents.
    I thought the days of big industry slowly killing the residents for profit were over?
    Has anyone considered finding out where the owners of this place live and bringing some form of organized (legal) “annoyance” to THEIR neighborhood?

  5. Bob says:

    For those who do not know, all public officials swear an oath to obey and to defend the Pa & US Constitutions . Art.#1 sec 27 guarantees everyone clean air, water and land. Also, Google , Fordham Environmental Law Review.–The Criminal Provisions of the clean air act amendments of 1990.

  6. Eileen Capuano says:

    I grew up in Lawrenceville, the air was always foul. I’m so excited that this neighborhood is turning around for the better now. We all deserve to breathe clean air. I know people that work inside that factory cannot breathe and some who have gotten very sick at work. This problem should of been handled years ago

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