Daily Air Update: Five straight days of unhealthy air in Mon Valley

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Violations of federal air standards could continue through the weekend

(Clairton) – Despite the Christmas holiday, residents in the Clairton area and Mon Valley experienced continued unhealthy air quality yesterday for the fifth straight day.  Allegheny County Health Department monitors in Liberty recorded another violation of the federal daily fine particle standard, and the state daily hydrogen sulfide standard for December 25, and data from Thursday morning also indicates likely violations for a sixth consecutive day given the lack of action by U.S. Steel to reduce emissions from their Clairton Coke Works.

According to EPA’s airnow.gov website, the Liberty/Clairton area has been the worst air in the country multiple times during this streak of violations going back to Saturday, Dec. 21. On Wednesday afternoon, monitors in Pittsburgh also reached the EPA’s ‘Top Five’ list for worst air, demonstrating the overall degradation of air quality in the region.

Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania Director for Clean Water Action stated, “Residents in the Clairton area and Mon Valley have been told repeatedly that U.S. Steel is fixing the problems at the Clairton Coke Works and that we are going to get clean air. This past week is just the latest example of U.S. Steel’s broken promises. Where is the Allegheny County Health Department? We’ve been asking Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to meet with Clairton residents, but have gotten no response.”

The extended period of violations of the federal health based air quality standards for fine particles could affect all residents who are exposed.  However, especially vulnerable groups include children, seniors, and people with either respiratory conditions, such as asthma or COPD, or cardiopulmonary conditions, such as a recent heart attack.  In the Mon Valley these vulnerable groups are roughly half the population.  Simultaneous violations of the state standards for hydrogen sulfide are important as they indicate the pollution source is clearly U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works, the only major emitter of this compound.

Clean Water Action will continue to provide updates on this situation as it develops.


Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. We will protect clean water in the face of attacks from a polluter friendly Administration.

Myron Arnowitt