U.S. Steel says the pollution controls at its Clairton Plant are fully operating again after a fire damaged them in December.
For over three months, the company has been working to repair equipment that takes sulfur out of the gas produced by baking coal into coke, a key ingredient in steelmaking, at its Clairton plant. When burned, the sulfur forms sulfur dioxide, a lung irritant that can cause respiratory problems.
The lack of controls has led Clairton and two other U.S. Steel plants nearby to release five times the amount of sulfur dioxide as they normally are permitted to, according to the Allegheny County Health Department. That has caused several spikes of the pollutant in the surrounding area.
In January, following the fire, the health department issued an air quality warning for vulnerable populations, like children and the elderly, to limit their outdoor time due to potential air quality problems.
The Allegheny County Health Department ordered the plant to have its repaired equipment fully running by April 15. U.S. Steel has notified the agency that it’s already met that requirement, 11 days early.
“This is an important milestone in our repair efforts and we will continue to monitor and adjust coking times as appropriate,” said Meghan M. Cox, a company spokeswoman, in an emailed statement.
The health department says it will now calculate a fine to levy against the company for air quality violations related to the fire.
This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.