US Steel avoids potential shutdown order by restoring pollution controls after fire

US Steel's Clairton Coke Works. (Reid R. Frazier/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

US Steel's Clairton Coke Works. (Reid R. Frazier/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

This article originally appeared on StateImpact Pennsylvania.

US Steel has put its pollution controls back online at its Clairton Coke Works and avoided a potential shutdown order, the Allegheny County Health Department said Tuesday afternoon.

The department issued an emergency order for the plant to meet pollution limits or face potential shutdown Monday after a fire disabled Clairton’s pollution controls. Those controls were restored later that night.

The county said sulfur dioxide levels didn’t exceed limits as a result of Monday’s fire, the second in six months to shut down the plant’s pollution controls.

The order gave U.S. Steel 24 hours to come up with a plan to control its emissions of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide and gave the plant 20 days to put in place. If it failed to meet the county’s timeline, the plant would have had to cease all coke-making operations.

But on Tuesday afternoon, the county said in an emailed statement that its inspectors had been inside the plant and “verified that all systems are again online” and “the concerns of the order have been met.”

The county says it will push the plant to have a backup pollution control system in place to “ensure that a failure such as this can be avoided in the future.”

The company reported the fire at 4:43 a.m. Monday and said it was “small” and was extinguished quickly.

It knocked out the same controls that were offline for more than three months following a Christmas Eve fire at the plant. Over that time period, thousands in the Pittsburgh area complained about breathing problems and odors.

The Clairton plant is the largest coke works in North America. To make coke, a key component of steelmaking, it bakes coal at high temperatures.

The plant is subject of several lawsuits and enforcement actions from Allegheny County as a result of air pollution problems. Over the past year, the county has fined US Steel $2.6 million.

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