Ohio EPA, Sierra Club at odds over pollution resultsBy
Ohio Environmental Pro-tection Agency officials say they
appreciate work the Sierra Club and allied groups have done in
analyzing Dicks Creek pollution.
But they say the analysis isn’t enough to link pollution to AK
Steel Corp., as the activists are trying.
“There’s not enough data... ” said Nita Nord-strom, a
Dayton-based site coordinator with the OEPA Division of Emergency
and Remedial Response.
“ ....based on these two samples,” said Jeff Hines, the Dayton
assistant chief, finishing the sentence for Nord-strom in a phone
AK Vice President of Public Affairs Alan McCoy on Friday jumped
“Two samples? Taken by some environmental activists?” McCoy said.
“Come on — we’ve had PhDs crawling over that place for five
“Let’s consider what Dicks Creek is and has been for decades — an
urban runoff and waste-water tributary,” he added.
McCoy said the activists need to compare their samples to samples
they are certain come only from AK property. He doesn’t think they
have done that.
And they have not, Sierra Club staffer Susan Knight acknowledged.
But, she said, they will.
“It was an excellent suggestion, and we are going to do that,”
Nordstrom otherwise praised the groups’ study, which was made
public Thursday, calling its analysis “extensive,” even “rigorous.”
She said she couldn’t comment on their sampling techniques or
handling of samples, however.
And the EPA officials did not excuse Middletown-based AK. The
state has joined a federal lawsuit against AK in Cincinnati’s
federal court, alleging violations of environmental laws. The Sierra
Club is an intervener in that suit.
“We certainly have issues with AK Steel and contamination in
Dicks Creek,” Hines said.
But linking PCBs, polyclorinated biphenyls, to AK isn’t possible
based on these samples, they said.
“It’s not a sufficient quantity of samples,” Hines said.
Both said the study does not put the creek — its path runs behind
a trailer park and Amanda Elementary School — in a new light.
Nordstrom said she has seen PCB concentrations as high as 300 parts
per million in other parts of the creek.
The activists said they found concentrations of PCBs as high as
5.9 parts per million in one sediment sample near Yankee and Oxford
State roads and another at 2 parts per million behind Amanda.
Nordstrom called those concentrations “fairly elevated.”
Asked if those levels are dangerous, she said: “They could be.
There’s a possibility they are if humans are exposed to them.”
BUT NORDSTROM added that public health officials have long
realized that the creek is not safe, pointing to signs posted since
the mid-1990s warning residents not to swim, bathe, play or eat fish
from the creek. Even AK has emphasized the warnings.
The most toxic form of exposure would be eating a fish
contaminated by PCBs, she said.
At a press conference on the property of old Amanda School
Friday, activists presented Dr. David Carpenter, professor of
environmental health and toxicology at the University at Albany,
State University of New York.
“You can breathe these in,” Carpenter said of PCBs. “You can
absorb these into your skin if you go wading into contaminated
The Sierra Club is not paying Carpenter for his work and has
never paid him, Knight said. Carpenter said the group did cover his
Carpenter, a medical doctor and professor of environmental health
and toxicology, was the founding dean of the School of Public Health
at the University at Albany. He has been interviewed by the news
program “60 Minutes,” and Sierra is presenting him as an expert on
But Knight also said her organization wants to enlist Carpenter
as an “expert witness” in federal litigation against AK. She said
that unless it’s “standard practice” to pay expert witnesses, the
organization will not pay Carpenter.
Carpenter wasn’t sure about the idea of testifying.
“This is the first I’ve heard about it,” he said when asked about
Carpenter said he has testified in a lawsuit against Monsanto
Co., a lawsuit filed by residents of Anniston, Ala., settled in
April 2001. He has been deposed in other lawsuits, he said.
He said he uses most of his payments for serving as a witness to
support his students and university.
Asked if he has given the Sierra Club’s Dicks Creek data more
than a cursory study, Carpenter said, “Yes and no.” He said he
operates from a “base of knowledge” and long experience in the
Carpenter has studied the health of Native Americans who live on
the St. Lawrence River, the Sierra Club says. Knight said people
concerned about the state of the Hudson River in New York
recommended him to her organization.
“We were trying to secure an expert just to talk about these
issues in a technical way,” Knight said.