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AK awaits Ohio EPA response on Dicks Creek

By Thomas Gnau

Never far from attention, Dicks Creek seems to be getting more of it these days.

Earlier this month, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency sent AK Steel Corp. a “notice of violation” on what the agency said was a “discoloration and solids deposition” in the creek.

The red, or rust, color in the water was naturally occurring iron in well water fed to AK’s fire protection system, an AK spokesman said. When AK’s fire hydrants were flushed into the creek, the coloring came with it.

“It is a naturally occurring constituent of the well water,” AK Vice President of Public Affairs Alan McCoy said.

AK has formally responded to the agency, he said. But the company has not heard a formal response from the EPA, McCoy said.

Agency spokeswoman Kara Allison said the OEPA has not yet reviewed AK’s response.

But Mary Osika, an environmental specialist at the agency’s Division of Surface Water, sounded skeptical of the company’s explanation.

“You could say uranium is naturally occurring,” Osika said. “It doesn’t mean it should be discharged” into the creek, she said.

Osika said AK may have to “capture” the discoloration somehow before discharging it.

Also, early this month, Ohio Sierra Club members and supporters — some wearing suits and masks designed to protect users from hazardous materials — took samples from Dicks Creek for testing in an environmental lab, they said.

The idea was to test sample constituents against emissions from AK; the steelmaker is often in the Sierra Club’s critical sights for what Sierra says is pollution.

“I hope the creek is getting more attention,” Sierra Club member Susan Knight said.

Knight said the lab will use an “extensive process” to break down what she said will be the chemical PCB in the sample water in a way that identifies their origin. If the chemicals come from AK, she said, the lab will be able to determine that.

She said she there were no results to report as of the end of last week.

MCCOY HAS said the creek does not contain detectable levels of PCBs.

Meanwhile, McCoy has said three women — including area Sierra Club chairwoman Marilyn Wall — trespassed on AK property near a company outfall to the creek.

Wall, who was on vacation late last week and unavailable for comment, has said that she was monitoring the creek in late July from the side of a public road.

Knight — who said she was with Wall at the time — said they stopped at a gravel area off Oxford State Road. She said the area did not have signs at the time identifying it as AK property. Signs are there today, she said.

“Whether it is posted or not, it is private property,” McCoy said.

Knight also said they were on the land of another company, which gave her and her colleagues permission to move about. She would not name the company that, she said, permitted her on its land.

And she rejects talk of trespassing as a distraction from what she feels is the central issue.

“The issue here is the health and safety of Middletown residents,” Knight said.

AK is considering legal action against the women, McCoy said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Ohio environmental protection agencies continue lawsuits against AK in federal court for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.



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