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Shenango cuts emissions after being fined

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Shenango Inc. was fined $185,250 for air pollution violations by its coke ovens on Neville Island during the first quarter of the year, but its performance has been improving since.

The company was cited for violating a March 2000 consent decree that was designed to reduce coke plant emissions. That decree was signed with the Allegheny County Health Department, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Health Department announced the fine Monday. Shenango has paid $148,000 but is withholding the remainder in a dispute over provisions of the consent decree relating to scheduled maintenance of the plant.

Most of the violations were linked to failure of the coke plant's desulfurization system, which removes sulfur from coke oven gas. The desulfurization system was operating only two-thirds of the time from January through March, a period when the plant's coke oven gas exceeded the sulfur limit on 79 days.

From April through June, by contrast, the plant exceeded its sulfur limit on 11 days.

"During the first quarter we had some disastrous equipment failures, but the second quarter was an excellent one -- one of the best on record for us in terms of the desulfurization plant and compliance," said Jim Birsic, Shenango vice president for health, safety, environment and law.

Particularly encouraging, Birsic said, was the plant's ability to reduce its sulfur emissions to below the permitted limit for the year.

"We believe the second-quarter results indicate Shenango is capable of reducing its emissions," said county health Director Dr. Bruce W. Dixon, "and hope the company will sustain these improvements and make even further progress toward bringing its plant into compliance with the consent decree."

The small, 56-oven coke plant, which employs 200 and produces 360,000 tons of coke a year for use as fuel by steelmakers, was fined $83,250 for violations of the consent decree during the last 10 months of 2000. As part of the consent decree, Shenango was also assessed a $2.1 million fine for previous violations.

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