The chemical leak at Freedom Industries that left 300,000 people without water in West Virginia brings up questions in other states, like Pennsylvania, about the possibility of other water contamination catastrophes. There have been spills into Pennsylvania waterways before, and regulators say those incidents have led to more strict laws here. Regulators say a spill is less likely here than in West Virginia, but clean water advocates aren't so sure.
On Neville Island, in the Ohio River, a few miles west of downtown Pittsburgh, the eastern end of island is thick with chemical and industrial plants, belching out smoke and steam.
A report prepared for the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health finds cancer risk factors for Allegheny County residents are more than twice as high as for residents of surrounding rural areas.
Using the latest National Air Toxics Assessment from the Environmental Protection Agency dating back to 2005, Pitt researchers found air pollution made the risk 20 times greater for those in West Elizabeth and Clairton.
“The residents of Clairton and the Mon Valley always have known these things have been happening,” said Clairton's Lee Lasich, who joined Clean Water Action nine years ago.
A proposed state consent decree would give a Warren County wastewater treatment company with a history of violations two years to stop discharging gas-drilling water containing high levels of pollutants into the Allegheny River.
The state Department of Environmental Protection's proposed settlement would require Waste Treatment Corp. to install additional wastewater treatment mechanisms to remove 99 percent of the pollutants by Jan. 1, 2016, but would allow it to continue its 200,000-gallon-a-day discharges into the river until then.