Prove your humanity

This story comes from our partner, 90.5 WESA.

The Allegheny County Health Department issued an enforcement order Tuesday to the Neville Chemical Company for a violation involving a strong odor. The order came just over a month after multiple residents reported a stinky smell in early September.

A health department investigation found Neville Chemical Company exceeded air pollution limits and failed to report a broken valve in a timely manner. It was also cited for “work practices” and “failure to determine valve failure in a timely manner.”

The company produces hydrocarbon resin, which is used to make rubbers, coatings, printing inks, and adhesives.

In an initial breakdown report sent to the health department 33 hours after the incident, Neville Chemical Company said that the broken valve allowed “raw material to enter a resin kettle and release a hydrocarbon mixture into the air.” According to the health department, all breakdowns must be reported within one hour.

The company emitted 956 pounds of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) over five hours—exceeding both its short-term permit limit of 0.01 pounds of HAPs per hour and its long-term permit limit of 720 pounds per year. The Health Department did not disclose the types of HAPs that were released.

It also emitted 24,800 pounds Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) during the same period.

Angelo Taranto, the secretary treasurer of Allegheny County Clean Air Now, said that, although he’s glad county officials released the enforcement order, he would like the county to do more to protect air quality in the region.

“We would like to see ongoing, consistent vigilance and monitoring of these industries,” Taranto said. “We felt that that hasn’t been happening county-wide, but in terms of our concerns, it hasn’t been happening in the Neville Island area.”

In a statement, ACHD chief operating officer Patrick Dowd said the department is “committed to enforcing the regulations.”

“When breakdowns occur, it is our job to hold the source of the breakdown responsible, and we take that responsibility seriously,” he said.

“This is the type of swift action residents should come to expect from the Allegheny County Health Department,” GASP Executive Director Patrick Campbell said in a statement.

But Amanda Gillooly, a spokesperson for the organization also said that “while the county’s efforts to enforce its regulations are laudable, we further call on ACHD as the county’s public health experts to address any potential adverse health impacts to the community that might have resulted from this incident.”

The department fined the company $62,075, which will be paid to the county’s clean air fund. It was also ordered to submit a plan to avoid similar situations in the future.

Residents can report air quality complaints on the county’s air quality website.