David and Cindy Meckel arrived home in Glassport after a holiday vacation on Jan. 2, 2019. The air in the Mon Valley frequently has a rotten smell, they said, but when they returned home, the stench of “cat urine” was unbearable. The soot they wash off their home’s exterior a couple times a year required more than a full day of scrubbing. Some plants in their yard started to die.
They soon learned that a fire at the nearby Clairton Coke Works on Christmas Eve had knocked pollution control equipment offline. What they didn’t know — and what only became apparent more than a month later to regulators — was how serious the problem was. Thousands of tons of additional pollution were being released and burned at the Irvin Works, a facility within view of their home.
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