More than 900 people have signed a petition urging the Allegheny County Health Department to approve a strong permit for the McConway & Torley steel foundry in Lawrenceville that will reduce toxic emissions and odors, and protect public health.
The petition was delivered to Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker at Wednesday’s board of health meeting Downtown, by Maggie Brooks, a field director for Clean Water Action, a statewide environmental group and Lawrenceville resident, one of four people who spoke in favor of tighter controls on foundry emissions.
“Most people are not aware of how close to their homes this pollution source is,’ Ms. Brooks said. “The emissions of benzene and manganese are health issues, and it’s the Health Department’s responsibility to protect public health. It’s time for McConway & Torley to be good neighbors.”
The foundry, which makes railroad train car couplings, has operated between 48th and 51st streets along the Allegheny River since the 1860s, but some residents of the area have raised concerns in recent years about its emissions and odors, and questioned whether such a facility is compatible with the densely populated, recently hip, neighborhood.
The Health Department has been working for two years on a new five-year permit for the foundry. ACHD Air Program Manager Jayme Graham, said the foundry has been able to show emissions are not escaping through its large door openings, and department is trying to schedule tests this spring to measure the effectiveness of the foundry’s pollution controls.
“We’ve not been able to match the odor complaints with the foundry,” Ms. Graham said, “but we’re still working on this.” Ms. Graham said emissions of manganese were within permitted limits. She wasn’t sure about benzene emissions levels.
Joanne Buchanan, who has lived a half block from the foundry and downwind for seven years, offered to let the Health Department set up pollution monitors on her roof. She said its pollution emissions cause her to wake her at least once a week with burning eyes and a dry throat.
“I really want the department to get a better, more accurate view of what is going on,” Ms. Buchanan said. “The data it has is incomplete.”
The company, which has been owned by Dallas-based Trinity Industries since 1980, did not return a call requesting comment Wednesday.
Don Hopey: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1983, or on Twitter @donhopey