Ludlum to pay $1.6M pollution penalty

Publication Date 05/18/2010
Source: Valley News-Dispatch (Tarentum, PA)

Allegheny Ludlum Corp. has reached a settlement with federal and county agencies regarding alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its Natrona melt shop.

The agreement announced Monday by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice calls for Ludlum, a subsidiary of Allegheny Technologies Inc. which makes speciality stainless steel, to pay a $1.6 million civil penalty.

That penalty will be divided equally between the federal government and the Allegheny County Health Department.

In addition, Allegheny Ludlum agreed to permanently cease steel-making operations at it Natrona facility no later than Nov. 30, 2010.

The Natrona melt shop works in conjunction with the nearby Brackenridge Works where finished stainless steel is produced. It is scheduled to close as part of a physical restructuring of the plant, which includes a consolidation of the Natrona and Brackenridge melt shops.

That will be followed by construction for a state-of-the-art hot strip mill expected to cost $1.5 billion.

“This settlement will bring cleaner air to Allegheny County,” said Shawn M. Garvin, EPA Mid-Atlantic administrator. “We’re pleased that we could resolve these issues without further litigation, meaning nearby communities will benefit sooner from improved air quality.”

“We think this is as good an outcome as anybody could expect;” said Dan Greenfield, spokesman for ATI.

The violations were discovered during an Aug. 8, 2007, EPA inspection of the Natrona facility. Emissions could be seen escaping that were made up of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, soot, including particulates greater than 10 microns and other hazardous air pollutants.

It also found that the thickness of smoke emitted from the facility, which is measured and regulated to prevent visible air pollutants such as soot and other particulate matter from polluting the air, exceeded allowable limits.

Limits on the smoke and emissions were established in March 2006 and June 2007 when the Allegheny County Health Department and Allegheny Ludlum settled alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

The settlement required the installation and repair of air pollution control equipment.

However, the lawsuit filed by the EPA said “emission sources within the facility overwhelmed the individual process emission control devices.”

Under the Clean Air Act, Ludlum was subject to penalties of up to $32,500 per day for each violation after March 15, 2004, and $37,500 per day for each violation after Jan. 12, 2009. Also, it could have faced penalties of up to $25,000 per day for each violation of the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act.

Greenfield said the consolidation is proceeding toward the November deadline. He said the grain-oriented electrical steel the company produces is difficult to make. He said when the process is changed, test melts have to be made and analyzed to ensure the quality of production.

“We want to make sure that the new melts meet the strict requirements of our customers — that’s what we are doing,” Greenfield said. “You can do all the engineering studies, but we still have to make it and make it consistently right.”

He said thus far, the test process is “going very well.”

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