AK Steel Announces it Catches Ohio EPA 'Cooking the
Books' on Dicks Creek PCB Data to Smear AK Steel
MIDDLETOWN, Ohio, June 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- AK Steel said today it has obtained documents and other evidence that confirm AK Steel's belief that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has deliberately manipulated and overstated the level of PCBs in Dicks Creek and their impact on aquatic life and human health. AK Steel says the agency's motive is to create knowingly unrepresentative and biased "evidence" for use against the company.
AK Steel says that the documents prove Ohio EPA representatives violated both a federally approved Sampling and Analysis Plan and Ohio EPA's own guidance for gathering sediment samples from Dicks Creek for chemical analysis. The documents reveal that Ohio EPA employees even expressed concerns about gathering sediment samples that might prove that there are sources other than AK Steel for the chemicals found in the urban, 10-mile-long creek.
Ohio EPA's sampling methods were so biased and flawed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) completely rejected six of the sediment samples. The federal agency indicated it did not believe the samples were representative of actual site conditions and that they were not collected in accordance with the approved plan. The documents also indicate, however, that Ohio EPA has for 30 years routinely used this biased sampling protocol, including against AK Steel, in violation of its own guidelines, leading to the possibility that much of Ohio EPA's historic sampling data is grossly overstated.
In a sworn affidavit, Dr. Timothy Barber, principal scientist with Arcadis G&M, an international environmental assessment firm retained by AK Steel, stated he witnessed an experienced Ohio EPA field technician "picking through" some 300 to 360 Dicks Creek sediment samples from AK Steel's property in order to select only material from the samples that appeared to contain the highest level of contamination. According to Dr. Barber, the Ohio EPA technician ultimately selected only about 10% to 15% of the material he had collected to be sampled and analyzed.
In his sworn affidavit, Dr. Barber further stated that, even though U.S. EPA rejected six of Ohio EPA's samples, Ohio EPA nonetheless had the samples analyzed. Dr. Barber reviewed the results of those analyses and concluded that the samples are not representative of conditions in Dicks Creek because the samples were collected in a manner designed to inflate the true representative concentration of PCBs in Dicks Creek.
According to Ohio EPA's own guidance protocols (Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water Sediment Sampling Guide and Methodologies, 2nd Edition, November 2001), sediment samples collected for risk assessment purposes should be representative samples from depositional zones. The Ohio EPA guidance does not reference in any manner a procedure for selectively screening portions of a sample to find worst-case material and present it as representative of the sampled area.
AK Steel has acknowledged in federal court that former oil separator ponds, lawfully operated and clean-closed by its predecessor company, Armco, are a likely source of some of the PCBs in the sediments of Dicks Creek. However, a five-year-long study of Dicks Creek commissioned by AK Steel, including nearly 1,600 soil, water and sediment samples, indicates that there are a number of other sources and potential sources of the chemicals found in Dicks Creek.
Despite these findings, the risk assessments associated with the study also concluded that the chemicals pose no discernible risk to human health or aquatic life. AK Steel also says the Ohio EPA has made no attempt to prosecute any other sources or potential sources for the chemicals in Dicks Creek.
Ohio EPA claims it first detected PCBs in the sediments of Dicks Creek in 1995. Subsequent tests by AK Steel confirmed the presence of PCBs, however Ohio EPA's test results were 10 times higher than those found by AK Steel's tests. AK Steel says it now understands why Ohio EPA's sampling data has historically shown much higher levels than sampling data obtained by AK Steel.
AK Steel had agreed to allow the Ohio EPA access to its Dicks Creek property in March for the purpose of collecting additional sediment samples. The agency indicated it wanted additional Dicks Creek sediment data in order to complete a health-based risk assessment in preparation for a trial in an environmental lawsuit against AK Steel that the Ohio EPA has joined.
Ohio EPA's Questionable Fish Tissue Samples
AK Steel also said Ohio EPA representatives violated the agency's own guidelines for collecting fish tissue samples in July of 2002, resulting in unrepresentative and unreliable data against AK Steel. Employees of AK Steel and a professional environmental consulting firm witnessed the fish tissue collection and noted a number of irregularities. Among the items noted were: inadequate time gathering fish samples, resulting in inadequate sample size; poor sample location (too shallow to support large fish); using inappropriate fish species and allowing fish tissue to become contaminated with fecal matter.
Especially troublesome, according to AK Steel, was Ohio EPA's use of the Cincinnati-Dayton Road area of Dicks Creek upstream of AK Steel as a reference location against the downstream sample areas, which resulted in predictably unreliable and unrepresentative data. The reference location chosen by Ohio EPA is a shallow pool that does not support the large, bottom-feeding fish where PCB accumulation is more likely to be found in fish tissue. In fact, photographs taken by AK Steel the month following the tissue sampling show the Cincinnati-Dayton area of Dicks Creek to be completely dry from bank to bank.
By using this inappropriate sampling methodology, Ohio EPA virtually assured that its data would show PCB levels to be higher in fish sampled downstream of AK Steel than in the fish sampled in the reference location upstream of AK Steel. AK Steel noted that not a single fish species tested by Ohio EPA was found at all test locations, and Ohio EPA tested some species not found in its own guidance, resulting in unreliable, unrepresentative and unscientific data.
"The State of Ohio, through the Ohio EPA, is trying to distort the facts to mislead and alarm the public," said Richard M. Wardrop, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of AK Steel. "I am outraged at this further evidence of Ohio's high stakes vendetta against the employees of AK Steel. It is time to hold Ohio's state agency representatives to the same level of accountability and punishment as have been imposed on normal citizens of this country," Mr. Wardrop said.
Source: AK Steel Corporation