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Shenango air pollution raises concern on Neville

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Plans by Neville Island coke maker Shenango Inc. to replace two old boilers and change the fuel mixture in another have raised objections from local residents and environmental groups concerned about increased air pollution.

Myron Arnowitt, regional director of Clean Water Action, said the benefits of replacing the big boilers -- one 30 years old and the other 50 years old -- with smaller boilers that have modern pollution controls could be offset by proposed permit provisions that would allow Shenango to burn more fuel oil and less natural gas, a cleaner burning fuel.

The Allegheny County Health Department, which held a public hearing on Shenango's installation permit application last night, said the permit would cap the coke maker's use of fuel oil at 2.4 million gallons a year.

"They're replacing two big boilers with smaller ones that have reduced emissions. It has to be an improvement," said Sandra Etzel, the Health Department air pollution control manager.

Shenango's current permit has no limit on fuel oil use, but over the last two years the firm has used 600,000 gallons.

"If that's what they use, then the Health Department should set the permit at the lower level," Arnowitt said.

James Birsic, a Shenango vice president, said the firm asked the Health Department to set a 2.9 million gallon-a-year cap on its fuel oil use to permit flexibility in buying the lowest-priced fuel for the boilers, which also will burn coke oven gas.

Janet Strahosky, a Good Neighbor Committee member from Avalon, across the Ohio River and often downwind from Neville Island, questioned why the Health Department would consider granting a new permit to Shenango, given the firm's violations of its current pollution limits.

The small, 56-oven coke plant was fined $185,250 during the first three months of 2001 for violating a March 2000 consent decree designed to reduce emissions.

Its performance improved: In the last nine months of 2001 it was fined $60,000.


Don Hopey can be reached at dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.

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