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Group alleges AK polluting homes

By Thomas Gnau

Soot collected from Oneida-area homes near AK Steelıs coke plant ³show the presence of heavy metal contamination,² an environmental group said Friday.

The compounds found include arsenic, lead, mercury, manganese, zinc strontium and others, an Ohio Citizen Action press release said. But activists would not say in what levels those compounds were found, casting doubt on the significance of the announcement.

³I feel like we would need to do more testing before we would release actual levels,² said Karen Arnett, of Environmental Community Organization, a group allied with Ohio Citizen Action.

³Itıs hard to say without any numbers what the effect of these could be,² said Brad Miller, an area supervisor at Hamilton County Department of Environmental Services, which monitors AK for air compliance.

³Ohio Citizen Action hasnıt given us enough information,² Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Andy Thompson said.

Alan McCoy, AK vice president of public affairs, declined to comment.

Three soot samples from the Oneida area collected in November and December 2001 were tested by a Cincinnati laboratory, according to Ohio Citizen Action.

Rachael Belz, an area director for Ohio•Citizen•Action, said Oneida residents often find soot ‹ which she contends comes from AKıs nearby coke plant ‹ on house siding, windows and cars.

³The interesting thing is you can also find (the material) inside your home, and thatıs even scarier,² Belz said.

³It gets all over our garage, all over our patio,² said Nancy Cottle, 55, of 3023 Omaha St. ³In the summertime you canıt even sit out.²

³Itıs dangerous,² said Ray Agee, 60, of 3009 Navaho St. ³Itıs a health hazard. Iıve found this stuff inside my tomatoes.²

Miller, though, cautioned that the material may not come from ³just AK Steel specifically.²

Belz and the release acknowledged that some of the compounds ³originate from the steel production.²

³What we found is not completely surprising, but itıs not something the Ohio EPA has ever done,² Belz said.

Miller said that wasnıt true. His department and the EPA test monthly for metals emitted from parts of AKıs Middletown Works, he said.

The testing is performed at nearby Oneida Elementary School, 2901 Yankee Road, he said.

He also said that some of the compounds the groups say were found, such as strontium, are not governed by current regulations.

Belz said the analysis says nothing about the health of Oneida residents.



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