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Shutdown Of Coke Plant Draws Mixed Emotions

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - A local coke plant in the process of shutting down has now stopped production, affecting nearly 200 workers.

Shenango Inc. made headlines two years ago when it was fined more than $1 million for air pollution. The company says the plant is shutting down due to a declining demand in the North American steel industry.

Residents told Brenda Waters they have mixed feelings about the shutdown. After 54 years, it's the end of an era for a blast furnace and plant here on Neville Island.

For years folks living in communities like Bellevue, Avalon and Ben Avon had complained about the pollution from Shenango Coke Works on Neville Island.

Fines against the company for longstanding air and water pollution complaints reached into millions of dollars. This was all a part of a settlement with Allegheny County.

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The Group Against Smog and Pollution says 332 days out of 432 days the plant was monitored violated air pollution compliance laws.

With the plant now closing, and 173 workers out of a job, neighbors across the river like Lisa Cronin and Barbara Barcousky say they have mixed emotions.

"I am sad about the job loss and the revenue for the community is going to be gone. I won't miss the emissions, because I could smell it when my window was open, sometimes stronger than others," said Cronin.

"I wish that the workers didn't lose their jobs. I wish they could have kept the plant open but worked on the pollution so we could have still had clean air," Barcousky said.

Shenango pushed the last coke out of its 56 ovens wednesday night, ending 54 years of baking coal into coke.

According to the company, the workers will remain on the payroll for sixty days and will be offered severance packages.

The plant is expected to be completely shut down by April.

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