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Health department signs off on plans to avoid the worst air pollution days in the Mon Valley

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA

The Allegheny County Health Department approved proposals to reduce air pollution from six plants whose initial plans were rejected, the department announced on Friday.

The air emissions mitigation plans are meant to help reduce air pollution on days when the health department issues an air pollution watch or warning.

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Earlier this year, the health department asked the sources to modify and resubmit their mitigation plans after the department found that the initial plans did not meet their standards.

The six facilities with newly approved plans are Clairton Slag, ELG Metals, TMS West Mifflin, TMS Edgar Thompson, U.S. Steel Edgar Thomson Plant and U.S. Steel Clairton Coke Works.

“This is another important step to protect the health and wellbeing of all people in the Mon Valley,” health department director Dr. Debra Bogen said in a statement. “This innovative enforcement tool will require sources of pollution to take measurable steps to reduce emissions on days when such actions are most needed. I again applaud our Air Quality Program for their ongoing work in shepherding this project and bringing real results for residents who have long suffered from poor air quality.”

Under the Mon Valley Episode Rule implemented in September 2021, health department air quality staff monitor pollution forecasts. When air pollution is likely to exceed what the department calls “acceptable levels” in the Mon Valley, sources must follow their mitigation plans.

The rule applies to plants “within or near” municipalities including Braddock, Braddock Hills, Chalfant, Clairton, Dravosburg, Duquesne, East McKeesport, East Pittsburgh, Elizabeth Borough, Elizabeth Township, Forest Hills, Forward, Glassport, Jefferson Hills, Liberty, Lincoln, McKeesport, Munhall, North Braddock, North Versailles, Port Vue, Rankin, Swissvale, Turtle Creek, Versailles, Wall, West Elizabeth, West Mifflin, White Oak, Wilkins, Wilmerding and Whitaker.

In a statement, U.S. Steel said the company “will continue to do its fair share during inversions to reduce air quality impacts in the Mon Valley area and will adhere to the contents of the episode mitigation plans.”

“We urge the Allegheny County Health Department to broaden the requirements for episode mitigation plans to all industrial sources in Allegheny County, not just those in the Mon Valley. Continuing to improve air quality will require region-wide effort.”

Notifications about the Mon Valley Episode Rule and air quality alerts will be sent out via theAllegheny Alerts system.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at