Clairton Residents File Class-action Suit Against US Steel
Residents of the Allegheny County city of Clairton have forged a class-action suit against U.S. Steel, claiming that the company’s Clairton Coke Works has negatively affected their property values because of the pollution it causes.
It’s also making people very sick.
Records show that the mill violated its air permit more than 6,700 times between 2012 and 2015 and that the area continues to fail federal air quality standards, particularly for the presence of sulfur dioxide and fine particulates, which can cause lung problems including cancer.
Though the local health department reached a new agreement with U.S. Steel last year to decrease the air pollution caused by the plant, problems continue to exist, the lawsuit states.
When the coke plant came to Clairton, long-time residents acknowledge that they were excited about the possibility of steady jobs at a good income.
But as the decades passed, it became evident that the plant was more of a hindrance than a boon to the economy, and even Clairton residents, who had defended the presence of the coke works to neighboring communities, had to admit that the price they were paying for a steady job was perhaps higher than they had anticipated.
“In my own family, my dad died of cancer of the trachea,” local Richard Ford told Public Radio International. “I had a daughter that died at the age of 25 with scleroderma. My son passed away this past October from prostate cancer.”
“It’s an awareness now that’s just sparked in us. And we’re ready to listen now and try to do something about it because it’s so apparent to us,” Ford continued.
The lawsuit notes that Clairton’s cancer rates are among the highest in Allegheny County. In addition, attorneys point out, the emissions also blow towards the town of Braddock, which also has a steel mill and, as such, has cancer rates that are twice as high as any other region in the county and higher than most areas in the state of Pennsylvania.
Despite what might seem obvious to the people of Clairton, Allegheny County Health Department deputy director of environmental health Jim Kelly says there are plenty of other reasons while the cancer rates are so elevated, including a high rate of smoking among locals and exposure to asbestos in houses and factories (including the coke works).