Neville plant pollution nets $1.75 million fine

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Shenango Inc. will pay a $1.75 million penalty to settle serious air and water pollution violations from 2005 to the present at its coke works on Neville Island, according to a filing in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh Tuesday.

The consent agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state Department of Environmental Protection and the Allegheny County Health Department also requires the company, owned since 2008 by DTE Energy Services, to control and reduce illegal emissions from its coke ovens and construct wastewater treatment and stormwater management facilities.

The coke works has a 30-year history of air pollution problems that have resulted in federal consent orders in 1980, 1993 and 2000 and a county consent order in 2005. Between 1990 and 2010, the facility paid fines totaling more than $2 million.

Emissions from the coke works were a contributing factor to Avalon, located downwind from the Shenango operations, having the dirtiest air in Allegheny County in 2010, according to county Health Department monitoring data.

A statement issued about the settlement by DTE, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., said the company recognizes the long-term pollution problems of the Shenango facility and has already done much of the work needed to bring the industrial operation into compliance with environmental standards.

"This settlement is a milestone in our efforts to resolve historical environmental issues and bring the operations and environmental performance of Shenango up to first-tier status," said Gary Gross, DTE vice president. "When we acquired the facility, we were well aware of its history. We would not have proceeded with the purchase unless we had confidence that we could dramatically improve performance and establish Shenango as a good neighbor and a valuable asset to the community."

However, the 27-page court filing states that DEP inspections in 2008-10 found the facility discharging coal pile runoff into the Ohio River without a permit and said it "continues to violate the pertinent [county] regulations governing emissions at the coke ovens and consistently fails to meet the limits and conditions in its current [federal water] permit."

The complaint alleges violations of the federal Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, the state Clean Streams Law and county air pollution regulations. In the first seven months of 2011, Shenango had 114 air quality violations and paid a $114,000 fine to the Health Department.

Jim Thompson, county air quality program manager, said the company's already instituted operational improvements are reflected in recent Avalon air monitoring data that shows lower pollution levels.

"Pollution levels have come down dramatically," Mr. Thompson said, "and air quality in Avalon is back in attainment."

"I'm glad the Health Department and other agencies took action and worked to get the Shenango facility cleaned up. They've had a lot of issues in the past so I just hope they follow through this time," said Julie St. John, a program organizer with Clean Water Action, who has participated in monthly meetings between Shenango and residents of nearby communities.

"The company has made a lot of repairs already," she said, "and we'll work to hold them accountable. Repairs, upgrades and maintenance are always needed at such facilities."

The Shenango coke works opened in 1962, employs about 150 workers and operates one coke oven battery with 56 ovens that produce approximately 380,000 tons of metallurgical coke a year.

environment

Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


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