This morning, PennEnvironment released a report outlining the top 10 air toxics polluters in Allegheny County. These businesses are all over the county, affecting some 400,000 people who live within three miles of them.
Area air quality groups responded to the report with calls for action. Here’s what they said:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 26, 2015
Mollie Simon, Clean Air Council
New Report Calls Out the Worst Industrial Sources of Air Pollution in Allegheny County
Hundreds of thousands of families across Allegheny County live in the shadows of ‘Toxic Ten’ facilities
Pittsburgh, Pa. – More than one-third of Allegheny County residents live within a three-mile radius of 10 industrial facilities responsible for pumping at least 1.4 million pounds of toxic pollutants into the air in 2013, according to a new report from the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. The report, “Toxic Ten: The Allegheny County Polluters that Are Fouling Our Air and Threatening Our Health,” exposes the chronic refusal of many of the region’s industrial facilities to comply with guidelines from the Allegheny County Health Department that are meant to keep everyone safe.
The PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center used industry-reported data from the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) on the amount and type of emissions from area facilities to determine which posed the greatest hazard to the health of nearby citizens. The emissions from these Toxic Ten industrial facilities include chromium, manganese, and benzene – toxins that can cause an array of health problems including cancer. It’s not just a hazard for the residents living in the shadows of these facilities. Toxic pollutants can travel a variety of distances, with studies showing some pollutants traveling more than 10 miles.
A number of the region’s leading medical and environmental experts are speaking out about the new report:
“We know that these toxins that are released into the air contribute to a variety of adverse health effects in both children and adults, including cancer and asthma as well as other problems,” said Dr. Deborah Gentile, an allergist-immunologist with Allegheny General Hospital. “Pittsburgh’s asthma rates exceed the national average, and one of the potential reasons why is because of the toxic emissions the facilities cited in this report release into the air we all breathe, each and every day. Other factors such as obesity, nutrition, infections, tobacco smoke exposure and poverty also play a role in asthma. We have not conquered our asthma problem in this region yet and one of the factors that we must address is how we can make the air we all breathe cleaner.”
Aviva Diamond of Moms Clean Air Force added, “Allegheny County has some of the worst air quality in the nation. The very air our children breathe is dangerous to their health and well-being. There is simply no more time to continue taking baby steps to address polluters – the Allegheny County Health Department must enforce existing regulations to keep our children safe and healthy.”
“This report provides clear evidence that we all need to come together – ACHD, community members, environmental health advocates and other NGO organizations and businesses – to take the needed steps and clean up our air throughout the region. With so many of our community members living right near a Toxic Ten facility, we know this is negatively impacting the health, welfare and quality of life of nearly everyone who calls Allegheny County home,” said Clean Air Council Executive Director and Chief Counsel Joe Minott.
The Toxic Ten report comes as some of the biggest names in the coke industry descend on Pittsburgh for the Met Coke 2015 convention this week. Experts and researchers will be gathering to discuss how technology and innovation can inform coke manufacturing moving forward. Coke is a highly-refined and processed form of coal, and it is one of the main materials needed to manufacture steel. The Environmental Protection Agency describes coke emissions as among the most toxic of all air pollutants, and classifies it as a carcinogen.
The country’s largest coke producer is right here in Allegheny County. About 37,000 people live within three miles of U.S. Steel Clairton Coke Works, and the facility has been in near-constant violation of health guidelines since 2012.
“If Pittsburgh is going to truly become the most livable city we, as an entire region, need to think harder about not only what type of jobs we want to attract, but what it will take to attract those jobs. Quality of life for Allegheny County residents is reflected in the quality of the air that we breathe,” said George Jugovic, Chief Council with PennFuture. “Regulations to protect public health aren’t at odds with a vibrant workforce, they strengthen it.”
“We often hear from residents throughout the Mon Valley who are dealing with the health and environmental effects associated with poor air quality. Whether they are in Clairton, Liberty, or West Elizabeth one thing is the same – poor air quality is impacting the health and standard of living for all residents,” said Cassi Steenblok, Program Organizer for Clean Water Action. “This report comes as no surprise and just further proves the need for the county to get tough on air pollution.”
“This report highlights what the thousands of families living in the shadow of DTE Shenango Coke Works have known for far too long: these facilities simply don’t follow the regulations in place that are meant to keep our families safe and healthy,” said Thaddeus Popovich, with the citizens’ group Allegheny County Clean Air Now (ACCAN). “It’s time for facilities like Shenango to recognize that they operate in communities that thousands of people call home. That means they have to play by the rules.”
Jamin Bogi, Policy and Outreach Coordinator at Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) said, “This report adds further evidence to bolster our concern about McConway & Torley’s foundry in Lawrenceville, which has the most people living within three miles of its facility compared to others on the list. There has been a fence line monitor at M&T for years, but we know their metal emissions are still worrisome. It’s time for action to reduce these toxic emissions.”