Rob Walters, a riverkeeper, launched his boat across from a staging area for barges on the Monongahela River, about 20 miles upriver from Pittsburgh’s downtown. His first mate, a Portuguese water dog named Rio — meaning river in Portuguese — whimpered in excitement. He counted about 30 barges before he turned on his boat’s engine and headed towards the city.
“Usually the general rule of thumb is biggest boat wins. So the barges really are the rulers of the river,” he said as he navigated between the moving barges.
Before too long, U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke works came into view. U.S. Steel says it’s the largest coke works in the country and in aerial photos it takes up the entire crescent of land that lies in this bend of the Mon River. “My jaw drops every time,” Walters said.
Listen to and read the full version of this report at Keystone Crossroads' website. Keystone Crossroads is a new statewide public media initiative reporting on the challenges facing Pennsylvania's cities. WPSU is a participating station.