Underground fire at East Deer site is getting smaller, officials say
The plan for dealing with an underground fire at the former Pittsburgh Glass Works plant in East Deer appears to be a simple one: Let it burn.
East Deer Commissioners Chairman Tony Taliani said representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection, Allegheny County Health Department and Vitro, the property owner, shared that opinion during a recent meeting.
The township has been pressing the company and environmental officials to do something about the fire, concerned it might be adversely affecting residents’ health and the air quality.
Taliani said Allegheny County Health Department officials reported that the fire is having virtually no affect on air quality around the property, despite complaints by residents.
Vitro said trying to open up the ground to extinguish the fire likely would make conditions worse and more dangerous and the best thing to do is leave it alone, a position shared by DEP, according to Taliani.
The fire started in 2017 when coal refuse, apparently used as backfill for the factory site many years ago, caught fire. Last August, it appeared to be getting worse as workers at the plant said blue flames could be seen coming up through cracks in the ground.
Taliani said it appears, based on a recent thermal imaging photo of the property commissioned by Vitro, taking no action may be the right strategy.
A thermal image of the property taken by a drone in December showed a significant reduction in areas where heat is being generated on the property compared with a similar image from September.
“I’m anxious to see what the next (image) is like,” Taliani said.
Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.