What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 3, 2015

The Tribune-Review Editorial Board Misleads The Public. Again.

Take a look at the important part of this editorial:
Egged on by the eco-wackos and those self-anointed hipsters, the health department, claiming pollution problems that don't appear to exist, wants McConway & Torley to cut production by 77 percent. [Italics in Original.]
If we take a look at the Trib's own reporting of the story, we'll get a much better idea of what's going on:
A steel foundry that employs hundreds in Lawrenceville is under fire from some in the neighborhood it's called home for nearly 150 years.

Residents, neighborhood groups and environmental activists want McConway & Torley LLC to cut the pollution, truck traffic and noise coming from its 48th Street foundry and support an Allegheny County Health Department permit that could reduce its steel production by 77 percent.
As well as the P-G's slightly different take on this:
McConway & Torley Foundry, the last steelmaking plant in Pittsburgh, may soon be forced to significantly reduce production and lay off some of its more than 400 employees under a proposed Allegheny County Health Department operating permit that limits hazardous emissions to protect public health.
From April 2011 through 2014, fence line monitors measured manganese levels that averaged 50 percent higher than federal health limits allow.

The draft permit would limit production to reduce high levels of airborne particles and volatile organic compounds, including benzene, a carcinogen, and manganese, a neurotoxin that can cause impaired motor skills and cognitive disorders. The Health Department, which has received air pollution complaints from residents of the area, proposed the limitations after discovering that the foundry had underestimated its emissions and the effectiveness of controlling them within the plant.
But wait, didn't the braintrust say that the health department was claiming, "pollution problems that don't appear to exist"?

So what about that manganese?  What about how the foundry underestimated its emissions?

So what does that draft permit say?

From the document we learn that:
  • Installation Permit Application (IP7) to reactivate an old EAF [Electric Arc Furnace] was received in 2008 with a maximum production potential of 116,800 tons/year of steel.
  • IP7 was issued on 1/21/2011. The facility was now permitted for two (2) EAFs with a combined production limit of 92,500 ton/yr steel.
  • A stack test on EAF 2 (IP7) was performed in July 2012. The facility exceeded numerous parameters including, but not limited to, PM10 [particulate matter less than 10 microns] (filterable + condensable), baghouse performance efficiency, CO [Carbon Monoxide] & VOC [Volatile Organic Compounds]. 
Since the meeting with McConway & Torley on November 7, 2013, the Department has performed a review of the above information along with a review of other air permits for steel foundries across the country. Additionally, the Department no longer accepts unsubstantiated claims of particulate control from buildings (the Department does not consider building structures to be a control device). These changes, discussed in detail below, result in maximum potential emission estimates at McConway & Torley that exceed major source thresholds for particulate matter less than 10 microns (PM10) , particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions at the throughput levels of McConway & Torley’s Operating Permit Application. [Emphasis added.]
Let's look at that "particulate control from buildings" part.  A few paragraphs later the permit reads:
The Department has historically allowed fugitive emissions released inside of a building to have a certain level of control ascribed to them for purposes of emissions inventory and permitting. Upon review of this procedure, it was found to have no technical basis to reference and was incongruent with policies and procedures of other air agencies, including, but not limited to, the PADEP, Ohio EPA and Oregon DEQ. The Department no longer allows for the use of buildings as a control device for particulate matter in Allegheny County unless the reduction is physically measurable. [Emphasis added.]
This part is actually referenced in the Trib's own reporting of the permit:
Changes in the estimates of how much pollution the foundry's building captures led the department to propose lower production levels, said Jim Thompson, deputy director of environmental quality at the Health Department.
Back to the permit:
McConway & Torley submitted a revised facility-wide potential emissions estimate to the Department on 12/18/2014. McConway & Torley calculated their PM10 potential to emit as being 93.89 ton/year for melting 92,500 ton of steel and using 730,000 tons/year of sand. This estimate used a 50% building control throughout the facility for fugitive PM10, a 60% reduction on the AP-42 emission factors for pouring and cooling PM10 emissions, incorrect emission factors for EAF #1 and EAF #2, and did not use the emission factors derived from the 2008 and 2009 stack test for bagshouse nos. 5 and 8 to estimate those potential emissions. The Department revised the McConway & Torley submittal to reflect those changes and calculated a potential that exceeds 100 tons/year of PM10. McConway & Torley’s usage of buildings as a control device, the 60% reduction in AP-42 emission factors for pouring and cooling, exclusion of permitted emission limits for EAF #1 and EAF #2, and their exclusion of emission factors derived from stack tests for baghouses nos. 5 and 8 (requested multiple times by ACHD) eliminates an additional 262 tons/year of potential PM10 emissions from their estimate. [Emphasis added.]
Remember according to the ACHD, buildings themselves were no longer considered to be "a control device."

More importantly, after reading all that, go back and take a look at how the Tribune-Review characterized what's going on in Lawrenceville.  To read it with only your right eye, you'd think that the heavily-bearded, multiply-tattooed hipsters snapped their tree-hugging fingers and Health Department said, "Um, ok.  We'll change the permit fer y'inz and destroy a business you don't like."

When the reality of the situation is far more complicated.  The braintrust is handing you an incomplete version of events in giving you its collective opinion.  And yet again, the Tribune-Review editorial board owes it to its readership to get the facts (at least most of them) right.

But that's probably too much to ask.

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