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Officials will train camera on Neville Island coke plant |

Officials will train camera on Neville Island coke plant

Aaron Aupperlee
| Wednesday, March 4, 2015 11:48 p.m

It’s like the live cameras trained on a bald eagle nest in Hays or the African penguin chicks at the National Aviary.

But this one spots pollution.

The Allegheny County Health Department will debut later this month the Shenango Cam, a camera recording the company’s Neville Island coke plant, Jim Thompson, the department’s deputy director of environmental health, told the county’s Board of Health on Wednesday.

“If someone has a complaint and says at 1 a.m. it’s the worst it has ever been, we can use the camera to maybe take enforcement action,” Thompson said,

Shenango Inc. is under a court order to reduce emissions. Some residents near the plant and health department employees are trained as “smoke readers,” who can determine an illegal emission by monitoring the amount of smoke in the air.

The new camera, similar to one used by Carnegie Mellon University and air quality groups to monitor Shenango, cost about $2,000, Thompson said. CMU is helping with software.

A link to the images will be available on the department’s website in the next few weeks, he said.

The Breathe Project worked with CMU to set up the Breathe Cam system in December. Four cameras show panoramic images of Downtown, the Mon Valley and the West and East Ends.

The county installed seven new monitors last month at homes on the northern bank of the Ohio River near Shenango. The homeowners volunteered to host the monitors, which cost about $500.

“We expect these air monitors and the camera to affirm that the air quality surrounding Shenango is as healthful as the overall air quality in the greater Pittsburgh area,” said Randi Berris, a spokeswoman for DTE Energy, the Michigan power company that bought Shenango in 2008.

The monitors will record data for seven pollutants, including benzene, a carcinogen. The data will be posted on the department’s website.

Residents living near Shenango said they were pleased with the camera and additional monitors, but told the board they wanted the county to do more.

“We keep pushing on something that’s not going to get any better,” Ted Popovich, who lives in Ben Avon, told the board.

Kathleen Krebs lives in Brighton Heights and said the monitoring system does not accurately show spikes in pollution. She said the camera would provide better surveillance of the plant.

“What we don’t know is what happens in the evenings and at night because there are no inspectors,” Krebs said.

Enhanced night vision will allow the health department to see emissions at night, Thompson said.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff reporter. You can contact Aaron at 412-320-7986, or via Twitter .

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