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Activists say PCBs found in creek

By Thomas Gnau, Journal Business Writer, E-mail:

“Extremely high levels” of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have been found in Dicks Creek, according to environmental activists who say they will reveal this week what they believe is the source of those chemicals.

Sierra Club member Susan Knight would not say Tuesday what the “fingerprinting” process identifies as the source of PCBs, but Knight and other activists, some from Cincinnati, have long been critical of AK Steel Corp., which has property near the creek’s path. Those activists have united with some Oneida neighborhood residents who live near AK’s Middletown Works in their criticism of the steelmaker.

“We’re releasing this with the health and safety of Middletown residents in mind,” Knight said.

The activists plan a press conference to announce their results at 2 p.m. Friday at Amanda Elementary School, 1300 Oxford State Road.

Meanwhile, AK has requested the data — through a discovery request in legal proceedings — that the activists say they have, but the Sierra Club has objected, AK Vice President of Public Affairs Alan McCoy said.

The Sierra Club is an intervener in a state and federal lawsuit, for alleged violations of environmental laws, against AK. The action is filed in Cincinnati’s federal court. The case could go to trial late this year or in early 2004.

“Where is the lab that these results came from?” McCoy asked. “Why did it take so long?”

McCoy said he also wants to know why the organizations involved won’t share with AK in discovery the information they plan to release in a press conference Friday.

Last August, some people concerned about the creek donned hazardous material-handling gear to take sediment and water samples from the stream.

Those samples are the foundation of the analysis, Knight said.

“The actual report on the PCBs is like 100 pages thick,” Knight said.

Included in a press packet the Sierra Club and allied organizations released this week is a copy of a Sept. 8, 2000, letter from McCoy warning then-Amanda Principal John Shepard not to let children swim or play in Dicks Creek near Amanda property.

“As you may know, PCBs have been detected in certain sediment samples in the creek in the low parts-per-million range,” McCoy wrote Shepard. “To our knowledge, no PCBs have been detected in the waters of Dicks Creek since at least early 1998.”

Shepard shared the warning with students and passed on a copy of the letter to Amanda-area families.

Signs along the creek have warned residents since the mid-1990s not to swim or fish there. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency determined in November 1997 that a tributary leading to the creek had high levels of PCBs. Part of the tributary was on the property of International Mill Service, which processes Middletown Works slag.

AK commissioned its own study of the creek through Denver-based Arcadis G&M. In June 2001, AK said the study used EPA methodologies to find that “risks posed by the low levels of chemicals in the area of the creek to be from 10 to more than 100 times below the level considered significant by the U.S. EPA itself.”

Days after AK’s announcement, however, the Ohio EPA re-emphasized its warning to residents to stay out of the creek.

Activists plan to include in their press conference David Carpenter, professor of environmental health and toxicology at the State University of New York at Albany. Carpenter headed a study of the health of people living near the St. Lawrence River below three aluminum foundries.

Carpenter could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Published 05.07.03



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