Viktoryia Maroz is a banking analyst who lives within two miles of ArcelorMittal’s Monessen Coke Plant in Donora, Pa. Exercising her rights as a concerned citizen and a member of PennEnvironment, Viktoryia is participating in the NELC lawsuit seeking to compel ArcelorMittal to comply with the Clean Air Act.
NELC: Did you notice a change in your living conditions after the Arcelor- Mittal plant reopened in April 2014?
Victoryia Maroz: Since the reopening of the coke plant, the odors and pollution have been so devastating that I experience extreme headaches, fatigue, and burning of the eyes. The odors can be so strong in and around the house that they wake me up in the middle of the night. And you can’t escape the smell, even inside your own home, since it persists even with the windows and doors shut and the furnace turned off. With the pollution also comes many health concerns.
NELC: What concerns you about the air pollution coming from the plant?
VM: Basically, I am concerned that the air I am breathing on a daily basis is not safe. I am concerned that it is affecting my health and the health of others who visit my home. Every month, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) finds coal dust and heavy metals in the air samples taken from my backyard. I would like to start a family, but I don’t want my children to be sick due to the air pollution.
NELC: Who have you contacted about these concerns, and what response have you received?
VM: In November 2014, I went to the Monessen City Council meeting to voice my frustration with the ongoing air pollution, but the mayor quickly discounted my health concerns as an attack against local jobs. I have also been in touch with the DEP and filed numerous odor complaints. DEP representatives came to my house a number of times to speak with me about my complaints, and to install an air monitor in my backyard, but they haven’t provided any solutions. Finally, I contacted the company itself to complain about the problem, but ArcelorMittal offers no explanation to citizens as to why the pollution and odors persist, nor has it explained why the plant continues to exceed pollutant emission standards.
NELC: Why do you feel that legal action is necessary?
VM: I do not believe it is fair that citizens are forced to live in unpleasant and unhealthy conditions because a nearby facility is violating our environmental laws. Since the company is breaking the law, legal action has to be taken for true progress to begin.
NELC: What role has NELC played in your fight for better air quality?
VM: I am very thankful and grateful for NELC! I have been working closely with NELC Attorney Heather Govern, who has provided me with continuous support and assistance. I feel privileged to be working with NELC, and optimistic that this lawsuit can help make a difference in my life and the lives of other Monongahela Valley residents.