‘Toxic Ten’ report singles out Allegheny County’s new most- toxic air polluter

Media Contacts
Zachary Barber

The newly updated report found, despite progress, Pittsburgh’s toxic polluters remain as a serious problem

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

PITTSBURGH —  Allegheny County’s “Toxic Ten” industrial air polluters collectively released more than 1 million pounds of toxic air pollution in 2019, according to a new report by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. The pollution included toxic chemicals such as benzene (a carcinogen), chromium (a carcinogen and respiratory irritant), and manganese (a neurotoxin). The full ranking, along with a tool allowing residents to find out how close they live to the Toxic Ten, is available at www.ToxicTen.org.

The report’s key findings include:

  • A new most-toxic air polluter in Allegheny County: ATI Flat Rolled Products in Brackenridge, formerly known as Allegheny Ludlum, topped the list. The facility spewed 911 pounds of chromium in 2019, more than every other Toxic Ten facility combined. 

  • Some facilities show signs of improvement: McConway & Torley dropped out of the top ten list, reducing its emissions of chromium compounds by 90 percent and emissions of nickel compounds by 97 percent compared to the previous report. The Cheswick Generating Station in Springdale, previously the most-toxic polluter, fell to seventh in the ranking. Both facilities’ emissions reductions came following years of pressure from local residents and environmental advocates.

  • Problems remain: Several Toxic Ten facilities have persistent legal violations, including Harsco Metals, which has been fined as recently as January 2021 for coating surrounding homes in lime dust, a problem which has persisted for years. Additionally, several Toxic Ten facilities have unissued or expired Clean Air Act operating permits, including ATI Flat Rolled Products, which has operated for 20 years without receiving a legally required Clean Air Act operating permit.

“Nobody should be allowed to release dangerous levels of toxic air pollution. Yet for too long, a small number of polluters have jeopardized the health of the entire Pittsburgh region,” said Zachary Barber, a clean air advocate with PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “Some progress has been made since we first issued this report in 2015, but it’s clear that we have a long way to go until everyone in Allegheny County has clean air to breathe every day of the year.”

The report was compiled using industry-reported data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxic Release Inventory for facilities in Allegheny County in 2019. The pollution releases were then weighted for their toxicity using the EPA’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) Hazard model. With a toxicity-weighted measure for each facility,  PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center was able to compare facilities that emit different types of pollution.

“For too long, our region has been fed a false narrative that to have a prosperous economy, we should simply put up with or even expect to breathe polluted air, drink tainted water, and allow our land to be degraded,” said Pittsburgh City Councilperson Erika Strassburger. “We don’t have to choose between good, high-paying jobs and our environment and health. In fact, we have the brainpower and workforce to grow our region and have healthier, happier residents by growing jobs that are good for our environment and build local wealth. I will continue to advocate and work with partners to achieve that goal and hold the Toxic Ten accountable.”

In order from most-toxic to least, Allegheny County’s Toxic Ten are:

  1. ATI Flat Rolled Products Holdings LLC in Brackenridge

  2. Harsco Metals in Natrona

  3. Clairton Coke Works in Clairton

  4. Universal Stainless & Alloy Product, Inc. in Bridgeville

  5. Thermal Transfer Corporation in Duquesne

  6. Holtec Manufacturing in Turtle Creek

  7. Cheswick Power Plant in Springdale

  8. Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock

  9. Carpenter Powder Products, Inc. in Bridgeville

  10. PPG Industries, Inc. in Springdale

To rein in unhealthy pollution from the Toxic Ten, Allegheny County’s leaders should:

  • Set stronger, health-based emissions limits;

  • Ensure local polluters are paying their fair share by increasing Clean Air Act permitting fees that fund the county’s Air Quality Program.

  • Ensure that it doesn’t pay to pollute by increasing fines for illegal pollution and shutting down facilities that can’t obey the law; and

  • Require fenceline monitoring equipment for toxic pollution like cancer-causing benzene, in order to quickly identify when these facilities violate their pollution permits.


PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. For more information, visit www.pennenvironmencenter.org.