High Levels of H2S May Be Connected to Clairton Coke Works

H2S May Be Connected to Clairton Coke Works

High Levels of H2S May Be Connected to Clairton Coke Works

The U.S. Steel Clairton plant was acquired by U.S. Steel in 1904. It is the largest coke manufacturing facility in the U.S. With nine coke oven batteries, it can create up to 4.7 million tons of coke annually. Throughout its history, there have been numerous health hazards; the most recent this past week, directly impacting employees, family members, and those near the facility.

According to the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD), hydrogen sulfide levels in some areas of the Monongahela River Valley exceeded state regulations on October 7, 2022, with large quantities of the gas in the region for three consecutive days. Environmentalists from Allegheny County and residents of the Mon Valley area are urging the Allegheny County Health Department to enact stricter regulations for coke oven gas and hydrogen sulfide pollution in relation to emissions from Clairton Coke Works.


Clairton Coke Works  and Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)
In December 2018, a fire occurred at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works in the cryogenic gas separation facility, which eliminates sulfur during coke gas processing. Elevated levels of sulfur dioxide were released into the surrounding area, affecting people living in communities nearby. This fire exposed how inadequately managed the plant had been, leaving locals vulnerable to more failures that could expose them to unsafe amounts of pollution in the future. Hydrogen sulfide can cause a range of symptoms, including difficulty breathing, headache, and persistent coughing, depending on the level of exposure and the time involved.

In 2021, the ACHD sent a notice of violation to U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works site regarding 32 instances where the H2S levels exceeded the threshold in Liberty from January 2020 to March 2021. Any prospective enforcement action that could have involved civil fines of up to $25,000 per violation per day, was preceded by the notification. This notification did not address the eight H2S standard violations that took place in North Braddock between December 2020 and March 2021.


Increasing H2S Levels in Monongahela River Valley
Hydrogen sulfide gas was present in significant concentrations in the borough of Liberty on Wednesday, October 5, 2022, according to the county’s air quality monitor. The H2S levels in the region increased again overnight after falling throughout the day on Thursday, October 6, 2022, and topping the state nuisance limit on Friday, October 7, 2022.

Despite the ACHD’s assertion that it was still investigating the factors contributing to the increase in hydrogen sulfide levels in the area, a report published in March 2022 found that emissions from the U.S. Steel Clairton Coke processing plant was to blame for the elevated gas levels over the previous two years. It appears likely that the plant has continuously put the greater community at risk by allowing these levels to grow. The penalty of $1.8 million is a starting point for breaching hydrogen sulfide limits again.

If you were exposed to hazardous air pollutants and now have cancer because of it, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us at 412-471-3980 or fill out our contact form today to see if you have a case.


“Hydrogen sulfide levels in Mon Valley surpass state standard” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2022) [Link]
Martines, Jamie “Mon Valley residents, environmental groups call for stricter pollution controls” TRIB Total Media (2019) [Link]
“UPDATED: Several More H2S Exceedances for Mon Valley as Poor Air Quality Lingers” Group Against Smog & Pollution (2021) [Link]
Morrison, Oliver “U.S. Steel faces lawsuit alleging that Clairton Coke Works ‘decrepit’ condition continues to endanger Mon Valley residents” PublicSource (2021) [Link]



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