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Consent Order Between Allegheny County Health Department, Harsco & ATI Calls for Enclosed Building for Slag Operations; $107K Civil Penalty

A Natrona-based slag processor will pay a more than $107,000 civil penalty and construct a new building to enclose processing thanks to a consent order and agreement with the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD).

The agreement between the department, Harsco Corporation, and ATI Flat Rolled Products was finalized Jan. 7 and addresses ongoing complaints from residents of nearby Opal Court who said that fugitive dust from the slag processing facility could be found on their cars and homes.

The agreement was first announced by ACHD Deputy of Environmental Health Jim Kelly at the Jan. 10 Board of Health meeting, where he called the enclosed processing requirement “a first” for Allegheny County.

About Harsco’s Ongoing Fugitive Dust Issue

The dust issue first came to light in March of 2017, when ACHD issued notice of violation letters to Harsco and ATI, the steel-making company for which Harsco processes slag. ATI also owns the property where Harsco’s facility is situated.

Those NOVs came after inspectors noted dust on children’s toys, playground equipment, and cars in Opal Court on three separate occasions in February of 2017, ultimately determining the company was in violations of regulations regarding fugitive emissions.

Harsco in June of 2017 submitted an action plan to address the violations, committing to operational changes and enhanced training designed to mitigate those dust issues. 

Despite implementing that compliance plan, ACHD noted that residential complaints about dust deposits continued to pour in: Between May 15, 2017 and May 22, 2018, inspectors noted 13 days on which deposits of particulate matter from Harsco were discovered nearby—spurring the health department to issue another administrative order against the company May 29, 2018.

That order required the company to submit and implement a compliance plan that would eliminate all fallout of particulate matter.

Harsco’s fix? The installation of a spray header system, which became fully operational on Aug. 6, 2018. The problem? ACHD continued to receive complaints about fugitive dust from nearby residents. A subsequent investigation determined that particulate matter deposits were noted in the community on 20 days between July 11, 2018 and Dec. 23, 2019.

As a result, ACHD determined that the plan was not adequate—which led to this latest agreement. 

Harsco Agrees to Take Corrective Action

In addition to the $107,020 civil penalty and the construction of a new building to enclose slag operations, Harsco also agreed to change the way it processes that slag. The company agreed to change its current water-quenching process to an air-cooled process.

Harsco and ACHD also agreed to stipulated penalties and a number of deadlines related to requirements spelled out in the order. According to the consent order, the company is required to:

  • Submit an installation permit for the new air-cooled process to ACHD within 90 days of the agreement’s effective date.
  • Commence slag processing in the new building within 15 months of the agreement’s effective date or 60 days from the issuance of the installation permit.
  • Cease operations of the current water-quenching process no later than 90 days from the commencement of in-building slag processing “to allow shakedown of the new air-cooled slag process.”
  • Continue operating and maintaining emissions control equipment at the current slag facility “with good air pollution control practices and pursuant to the compliance plan submitted to ACHD on June 28, 2018.”

The History Between GASP & Harsco—and Our Reaction to the Recent Order

In October 2017, GASP sent Harsco a notice of intent to sue under the Clean Air Act based on Harsco’s failure to have submitted an application for a Title V Operating Permit to ACHD.  

Harsco submitted such an application in January 2018. ACHD’s action on that application has been delayed pending the enforcement activity that culminated in this most recent order.  

“After many failed attempts by Harsco to control emissions of dust from its operations, ACHD has taken strong action by requiring that Harsco enclose those operations in a building,” said John Baillie, GASP’s senior attorney.  “We hope that these new measures will provide Harsco’s neighbors with relief from the dust emissions that have plagued their neighborhood for so many years.”

Editor’s Note: You can read the entire order here.

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