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Environment & Energy

EPA, DEP, County Health Department Fine Coke Plant on Neville Island

Shenango, Inc. has to pay up for air and water quality violations since 2005 at the coke plant on Neville Island, particularly involving their combustion stacks and pushing devices.

A consent agreement reached by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) requires Shenango to pay a $1.75 million penalty for failure to abide by those departments' environmental standards.

Jim Thompson, health department Program Manager, said there were a few factors considered in determining the amount of the fine.

"The first and most significant factor is you want to capture any economic benefit that the company may have gained by being out of compliance," Thompson said. "The second part is that we want certainly to make it clear that there are consequences for violating clean air standards."

Thompson added that the changes Shenango Inc.'s parent company, DTE Energy Services, has been making are showing a difference in air quality in the area. DTE bought the company in 2008, and spokesman John Austerberry said they have spent $8 million on their combustion and pushing appliances, and plan on spending $30 million more through 2017 to meet standards.

"Some of the things we've done is ceramic welding of all the joints in the ovens to reduce combustion stack emissions, and that's been very successful, and we've also spent a lot of time and attention on pushing emissions," Austerberry said. "The most recent thing that we've done is we have rebuilt all of the generators, all 56, which is a very involved process."

Thompson said the changes that DTE has made is showing a difference in PM2.5, or particulate matter, measured in the air. He added if the EPA lowers the permissible annual amount of PM2.5 from 15 to 13 micrograms per cubic meter in December, the facility would still be in the clear.

Austerberry said when DTE bought the company in 2008, they knew what they were getting into.

"We ultimately recognized that we would need to rebuild those regenerators, and having done that we've achieved a very high level of compliance," Austerberry said.