FAQ for Clairton Coke Works Fire

Q: What happened?

A: A fire at Clairton Coke Works (in Clairton, PA) broke equipment that controls how much air pollution (in particular, sulfur dioxide) is released into the air on Monday 6/17/19.

Q: When/how will this issue be fixed?

A: U.S. Steel said the systems were working again at approximately 8:15 p.m. Monday. Be on alert for community alerts from the Allegheny County Health Department, the news, or social media to follow the story.

Q: Why does this sound familiar?

A: You may remember the fire from December 24, 2018 at the Clairton Coke Works. This fire shut down the same pollution controls. The good news is, this time they were able to take quicker action to restore the pollution control systems and alert the public.

Q: How does this affect the health of my community?

A: Anyone with asthma and/or other respiratory conditions, children, pregnant women, and the elderly may be at risk to health effects from the increased pollution/poor air quality.

Q: How may increased air pollution/poor air quality in my community potentially affect my asthma?

A: Could experience wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness and other problems, especially during exercise or physical activity. There could also be an increased risk for the need to visit your doctor, urgent care, or the emergency room related to your asthma symptoms.

Q: How can long term periods of increased air pollution affect my asthma?

A: Longer periods of increased air pollution/poor air quality could increase your asthma symptoms and affect how well your lungs are able to function.

Q: How can short term periods of increased air pollution affect my asthma?

A: Short-term effects of increased air pollution/poor air quality may make it hard to breathe when you are active outdoors.

Q: How can I help keep myself healthy during periods of increased air pollution/poor air quality?

A: Be on alert for community news related to poor air quality. Check the status of your local air quality. Limit your outdoor activity if air quality is poor. You could also sign up for Allegheny Alerts, check your local Purple Air Sensor network online for up to date air quality information (see Asthma Institute website for instructions on how to access the Allegheny Alerts or Purple Air Monitor information online). In addition, you could click the following link for daily air quality conditions in your community https://www.alleghenycounty.us/Health-Department/Programs/Air-Quality/Air-Quality.aspx

Q: What should I do if I feel my asthma symptoms are worsening?

A: If your symptoms are worse than normal for you but not an emergency, you should use your doctor prescribed medications, including a rescue inhaler if needed, and schedule an appointment with your doctor. If your symptoms are much worse than normal for you and you feel it is an emergency, you should go to your local urgent care or hospital emergency room.

Q: How can I report increased air pollution I notice in my community?

A: If you wish to report any air, pollution related smells in your community you can download the PGH Smell app (instructions found on Asthma Institute website). You could also call the Allegheny County Health Department directly to file a complaint at (412) 578-8103. You may also wish to discuss with your doctor, they may be able to provide you with additional information.

Q: Will Clairton Coke Works continue to have more fires that could affect the air quality in my community?

A: There is no way to know for sure. People who live near factories, airports, major highways and other similar places have an increased risk of higher air pollution/poor air quality. It is important for all people to be aware of events (air quality in particular) in their community that could affect your health. It is especially important for people with asthma to be alert since poor air quality can worsen your asthma symptoms.

Q: What’s being done in my community to protect residents from poor air quality?

A: The Allegheny County Health Department monitors the air pollution coming from Clairton Coke Works (and other factories), it is the law. When any factory process/event worsens air quality, they are required to correct the problem. Many community groups/researchers/government leaders are helping support efforts in the Mon Valley to help advocate protecting your community.