By Kym Gable

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Pa. (KDKA) – There are more air-quality concerns in the Mon Valley due to a December fire at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works.

Earlier this month, an air-quality alert was issued, but people who live nearby say more needs to be done.

These residents are this an ongoing public health threat. They are encouraging residents in several communities to put the pressure on public officials and U.S. Steel.

It all started with a Christmas Eve fire and explosion, and residents have had enough. Many did not find out about the air-quality concerns until a post on Facebook urged residents to limit their time outdoors. The concern surrounds sulfur dioxide pollution and these families and advocates want action from the health department and county government.

“What we are asking and what we are demanding is not unreasonable,” said state rep. Summer Lee. “It is absolutely not unreasonable. To find out, the way that we found out, that there was a major disaster at one of the biggest pollutants in out nation that was impacting us … to find out the way we did was unconscionable.”

“It is the job of our local elected officials to act as the ultimate protector of the health of the people of Allegheny County,” said Matthew Mehalik, the executive director of the Breathe Project.

The fire ultimately resulted in a shutdown of the plant’s pollution control equipment. But residents want a “Hot Idle Order,” which is a suspension of the coal baking process until the issue is resolved.

“We have a lot of people in the community, of Facebook, saying ‘you could just move,'” said Collette Williams, whose son’s asthma has worsened with the air-quality issues. “‘if you were a good mom, you would move and make a better situation for your son.’ We don’t have the mans to pick up my family and move them and find another job and find another house.”

Dr. Karen Hacker from the Allegheny County Health Department addressed the issue, saying, “I want to assure the public that we are monitoring it extremely closely. At this point in time, U.S. Steel has been doing major mitigation efforts, including slowing down their coking time.”

U.S. Steel said the targeted repair date is estimated to be on or about May 15.