Residents, landowners air complaints about pollution from ATI’s Harrison steel mill
Residents and landowners complained at a hearing Tuesday night that pollution from the Allegheny Technologies Inc. specialty steel mill in Harrison discolors their siding, corrodes the paint on their cars and causes other problems.
Residents and environmental groups slammed the Allegheny County Health Department for increasing pollution limits at ATI’s steel mill to what they claim are unhealthy levels.
They spoke during a public hearing at the Harrison Township Municipal Building.
An ATI spokesman, Scott Minder, declined to comment late Tuesday, reiterating the company’s previous response that it would be inappropriate to make a statement during the public comment period.
“Allegheny Ludlum has a blatant disregard for the residents of Natrona and their property,” said Craig Campbell of Allegheny Township, who said he worked in the mill for 30 years and owns property nearby.
He claimed that there were “bag houses,” a type of air filter, missing and some of these bag houses “let pollution out.”
Campbell said he had soil tests done on the properties he owns near the plant and at least one of the tests revealed lead contamination at a level higher than federal standards.
The hearing was the public’s chance to express what was largely disgust for a draft Title V permit — a federal permit that’s an umbrella for other permits setting air pollution limits for the more than 90 pollution sources in the steel plant.
“If I wear black dress shoes, they turn white when I’m walking in the grass,” said Stanley Zembrowski, who lives along Opal Court in Harrison’s Natrona Heights neighborhood.
Some of the complaints of a white substance on cars are related to emissions from another facility, Harsco Metals, according to the Health Department, which has recently cited that company for air pollution violations.
Bonnie Crawford of Harrison regularly visits her son’s house close to the steel mill to walk his dog.
There are times when there are odors from the plant and pollution that are “disgusting,” she said.
“The Health Department cannot expect us to look the other way,” Crawford said.
Mary Jane Zdila of Harrison’s Natrona neighborhood said she installed new siding on her house in 1981 and the color has changed. She charges that the mortar to re-point her house is disintegrating.
“What is it doing to the inside of our bodies?” she asked.
Four environmental groups gave statements and hammered the county for setting emission levels for ATI that, they contend, are harmful to the public’s heath.
Those groups are: The Environmental Integrity Project, GASP, Clean Air Council and PennEnvironment.
They say ATI’s new proposed air pollution limits are about 36 percent higher than ones proposed last year in a draft of the air pollution permit.
One environmental group alleges that ATI released more pollutants than were previously reported, which is contributing to the new higher limits proposed by Allegheny County, according to Eric Schaffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project.
Schaffer traveled from Washington, D.C., to Harrison to testify at Tuesday night’s hearing.
The county disagrees with those groups, previously arguing that it is protecting public health and has to follow federal regulations to develop the pollution limits.
But the county Health Department couldn’t defend itself Tuesday because the hearing was held to collect public testimony, not offer debate.
If there is debate, it will likely be in court, according to the environmental groups.
The county will respond to the reported 250 written public comments, plus Tuesday’s testimony, potentially revising its permit, then will send it to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, according to JoAnn Truchan, the Health Department’s section chief of engineering and permitting.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.