AK Steel: Where things stand now
The last few months have seen excellent progress in the AK Steel campaign. Here's a summary and a look at what's next.
The "AK Come Clean" campaign began on May 4, 2001, and steadily built community and regional strength for over 2 1/2 years. This good-neighbor campaign has included door-to-door canvassing in Middletown and the Southwest Ohio/Northern Kentucky region, follow-up phone canvassing and community meetings. Through our coalition we have been able to do water testing that linked PCBs in Dick's Creek to AK Steel and produce a video documentary. There has been wide community support, tens of thousands of letters from neighbors near and far have voiced their concerns to AK, and some even got involved in a volunteer gutter cleaning. Neighbors' delegations have also attended three AK Steel annual shareholders' meetings in Delaware.
This campaign has been aimed at AK Steel's unbridled emissions of silver flakes, their black, white, and rust-colored particles into the neighborhood air, and PCB-contaminated 'white substance seepage' that flows from their landfills into Dick's Creek.
Former AK Steel CEO Richard Wardrop had decided to keep very high profit levels in large part by not investing in plant maintenance and modernization. The campaign warned that this neglect would not only continue the pollution, but would in the long run threaten the company's survival and the jobs of Middletown steelworkers. Wardrop ignored this warning, but others did not.
Last fall, the dam broke, and a quick succession of good results has followed:
Though we have come a long way, there is still work to be done.
AK's $65 million commitment is a major step forward. Carrying out that commitment effectively will significantly reduce the damage this plant has been doing to the health and property of neighbors near and far.
Though we have seen improvement in air issues, Dick's Creek is still contaminated with PCBs from AK Steel. The health effects of PCBs are similar to lead and mercury; the chemicals attack the human body, including gastrointestinal, hormone, immune, nervous and reproductive systems.