CLAIRTON (KDKA) — The Allegheny County Health Department issued an emergency order requiring U.S. Steel to comply to its hydrogen sulfide standard and sulfur dioxide limits.
U.S. Steel has 34 hours to come up with a plan that describes how this will be achieved.
This emergency order follows a Clairton Coke Works early morning fire.
According to the Health Department, U.S. Steel reported the electrical equipment fire broke just before 4:45 a.m.
As a result of the fire, health officials say there may be elevated levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) in the air. They say people with respiratory issues, as well as the elderly and children could be impacted.
However, they say that “there is no need for residents to take specific precautions at this time.”
The Health Department says the fire is now out, but two of three control rooms remain shut down because of it.
Control Room 1 has resumed normal operations, but Control Rooms 2 and 5 are closed. Those rooms hold equipment and controls for cleaning coke oven gases, the Health Department said.
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The same rooms were closed following a fire last Christmas Eve. After that fire, people who live in the Mon Valley were urged to limit their outdoor activities due to air quality concerns.
“I personally have plans on moving to Lake Michigan,” said resident Barbara Gardner.
“That has a lot to do with it. I have emphysema and I just recently had cancer.”
The health department said that children, elderly and people with respiratory conditions like Gardner should be made aware of this.
“I’m pretty nervous. I was pretty nervous the first time,” said Gardner.
“I feel like I’m not gonna get better here if I stay.”
Other residents like Ed Traeger, aren’t so worried.
“No I’m not concerned I’m sitting out here,” said Traeger.
“I’m five blocks from the plant. I’m not concerned ever. I was concerned maybe when I grew up because that’s when it was really bad.”
U.S. Steel said in part: “We are following mitigation steps to include replacing coke oven gas with natural gas and flaring while we work to repair the damaged equipment.”
U.S. Steel said no one was injured during the fire, and it was quickly put out.
U.S. Steel must submit a plan within 24 hours to the health department as to how it will come into compliance. The company will then have up to 20 days to achieve compliance.
U.S. Steel said they finished repairs at 8:15 p.m.
“Restarting the desulfurization facility and minimizing the potential for impacts to the environment and community were of the highest priority for the company,” they said in an email.
Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.