New US rules aim to crack down on toxic air pollution from steelmakers | united states news

New Environmental Protection Agency rules aim to crack down on toxic air pollution from American steel mills by limiting pollutants like mercury, benzene and lead that have long poisoned the air in neighborhoods surrounding the plants.

The standards focus on pollutants released by coke ovens at steel plants. Furnace gas creates an individual risk of cancer in the air around steel plants of 50 in every 1,000,000, which public health advocates say is dangerous for children and people with health problems. underlying.

The chemicals don’t travel far from the plant, but advocates say they have been devastating to public health in the low-income “fenced-in” neighborhoods around the steel facilities and represent an environmental justice issue.

“People have long faced significant health risks, such as cancer, from coke oven pollution,” said Patrice Simms, vice president of healthy communities at Earthjustice. The rules are “crucial to safeguarding communities and workers near coke ovens.”

Coke ovens are chambers that heat coal to produce coke, a hard deposit used to make steel. The gas produced by the furnaces is classified by the EPA as a known human carcinogen and contains a mixture of hazardous chemicals, heavy metals, and volatile compounds.

Many of the chemicals are linked to serious health problems, such as severe eczema, respiratory problems and digestive injuries.

Amid growing evidence of the gas’s toxicity in recent years, the EPA did little to control the pollution, critics say. Environmental groups have been pushing for new limits and better monitoring, and Earthjustice in 2019 sued the EPA over the issue.

Coke ovens have especially affected cities in the industrial regions of the upper Midwest and Alabama. In Detroit, a coke plant that for a decade has violated air quality standards thousands of times is at the center of ongoing litigation alleging that sulfur dioxide produced by coke oven gas has made residents sick. nearby residents in a predominantly black neighborhood, although the new rules do not cover that pollutant.

The rules, released Friday, require “close” testing around plants, and if a contaminant is found to exceed the new limits, steelmakers must identify the source and take steps to reduce levels.

The rules also close loopholes the industry previously used to avoid reporting emissions, such as waiving emissions limits during breakdowns.

Tests outside a Pittsburgh plant operated by US Steel, one of the country’s largest producers, found levels of benzene, a carcinogen, that were 10 times higher than new limits. A US Steel spokesperson told the Allegheny Front that the rules would be virtually impossible to implement and would have “unprecedented costs and potentially unintended adverse environmental impacts.”

“The costs would be unprecedented and unknown because proven control technologies do not exist for certain hazardous air pollutants,” the spokesperson said.

Adrienne Lee, a lawyer for Earthjustice, told The Guardian that the rule is based on industry data provided to the EPA, noting that the rules generally will not reduce emissions, but will prevent them from being exceeded.

“I find it hard to believe that (the limits) will be difficult to enforce,” Lee said.

Leave a Comment