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<UPDATED> No More Excuses for U.S. Steel: ACHD Finds Clairton Coke Works “Entirely” Responsible for Years of Elevated Hydrogen Sulfide Levels

Editor’s Note: The Allegheny County Health Department today in a press release announced that it has fined U.S. Steel more than $1.8 million for H2S violations. You can read all about that on our blog.

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) last week published a comprehensive study analyzing potential sources of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) that have been driving exceedances of the Pennsylvania 24-hour average H2S standard at its air quality monitor in Liberty Borough.

The 31-page study concluded:

“Based on all available data and resources, H2S exceedances that occurred at the Liberty site during the period of Jan. 1, 2020, through March 1, 2022, can be attributed entirely to emissions originating at US Steel’s Clairton coking facility.”

It’s been a low bar for good news in the world lately, but the study would have been outstanding news on any day.

“This is exactly the sort of in-depth study we’ve been asking the Health Department to conduct for years,” said GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell. “We appreciate the significant effort that must have gone into generating such a detailed report and hope the Air Program’s enforcement staff are able to put the study to good use soon.”

For residents who were already 99 percent sure Clairton Coke was the problem all along, we understand the study might not feel newsworthy. Perhaps it feels overdue or just stating the obvious.  

“We feel your frustration, but at the same time, we cannot understate the importance of this study eliminating that last 1 percent of doubt,” Campbell said. 

As you might have observed, U.S. Steel has a tendency to resist – legally – attempts ACHD has made to levy fines or make demands on U.S. Steel to improve its environmental record.

With atmospheric data, additional monitoring data, and statistical analysis, the study appears to eliminate U.S. Steel’s access to plausible deniability (i.e., any arguments U.S. Steel might make about other potential sources of H2S). 

That seems significant, and for the first time in a while, we’re eager to see what comes next. GASP is following this issue closely and will keep you posted on what we find out.

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Group Against Smog and Pollution