Little Victories

For the most part the city of Pittsburgh has left behind its historical reputation as a dirty, polluted, industrial city. As a matter of fact, if you have lived here most of your life you are likely overjoyed with the current state of Pittsburgh’s industrial footprint. Unfortunately there are still some hold outs from the bad ole days that are helping to keep our air quality in the top 10 worst in the nation. Unfortunately a good chunk of those old school hold-outs are located very near me on Neville Island.

A day does not go by where I do not see or smell Pittsburgh’s industrial past. As a result, for the past several years I have been active with a local citizens group called the Neville Island Good Neighbor Committee, most recently as part of a video monitoring project keeping tabs on one of the most visible throwbacks, Shenango Coke Works.

Well I am happy to report that the hard work of the citizens of the North Boroughs has finally begun to pay off. Yesterday the Allegheney County Health Department fined Shenango $252,000 for violations over the past quarter and, even more significantly, forced them to slow down their cooking times from 18 to 24 hour cycles. Hopefully this fine and the subsequent action will help to bring Shenango into compliance, something they have not been able to do for some time now.

According to the Health Department records, Shenango was able to comply with combustion stack emission limits just 40 percent of the time in April and its coke ovens were in compliance 13 percent of the time.

If you take anything away from this story it should be the realization that individuals can and do have an impact on their communities. This action was brought about by the work of a half a dozen or so dedicated citizens with little money but a ton of heart. Everyone in the North Boroughs owes the Neville Island Good Neighbor Committee their thanks for doing their part in creating a safe, clean environment for their families.

UPDATE: The Pittburgh Tribune-Review has a story on the Shenango action today (Sunday July 24, 2005).

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