Pittsburgh Glass Works not required to extinguish underground East Deer fire
The owner of Pittsburgh Glass Works in East Deer has no immediate plans to extinguish the underground fire at the shuttered glass plant despite calls for action by area residents and township officials.
The underground blaze has been burning since at least September of 2017 when PGW started investigating and found the fire was fueled by coal refuse that apparently was used as backfill for the factory site decades ago.
After reviewing the situation, the state Department of Environmental Protection found “no imminent threat to human health, safety or the environment,” according to Lauren Fraley, DEP spokeswoman.
However, DEP is requiring the company to continue to monitor the fire, remove vegetation, and restrict access but nothing more, she said.
“DEP anticipates that the fire will extinguish on its own because of the limited amount of potential fuel,” Fraley said.
Since last year, PGW has been monitoring and addressing localized hot spots on the plant’s interior concrete floor and conducted limited excavation on the Allegheny River side the plant to assess the soil composition.
This month, PGW sent out aerial drones to take thermal imaging scans of its property to assess the extent of the fire. The company sends its reports to DEP, the Allegheny Health Department, local utilities and others, according to its website, www.pgwcommunityupdate.com.
But that is no comfort to some of the residents who live near the plant, who complain of an odor, said township Supervisors Chairman Tony Taliani.
“We feel the solution to this problem is to extinguish the fire and PGW continues to resist that,” Taliani said.
Residents continue to complain about the smell and steam coming out of the ground behind the plant, he said.
“They are rightfully complaining and, unfortunately, the township can’t say ‘put it out,’” he said.
Taliani said the solution is to extinguish the fire and remediate the site for future use.
The fate of the site is important as PGW is the largest single property taxpayer in township, paying in of excess of $20,000 annually.
The office of State Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, has been helping township officials.
“It is a frustrating situation,” said Bill Patton, a Dermody spokesman. “Obviously, the sooner the situation is resolved, the sooner the site can be put to another use.”
All the township can do at this point is watch and wait, he said.
PGW is actively trying to sell the property, according to its website.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, email@example.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.