Dicks Creek PCB levels deemed ‘dangerous’By Thomas Gnau,
Journal Business Writer, E-mail: email@example.com
Dangerously high levels of PCBs have been found in samples from
two locations in Dicks Creek, environmental activists said Thursday.
“There’s certainly enough information from what you have now to
know you have a problem,” said Dr. David O. Carpenter, a physician
and former dean of the School of Public Health at the University at
Albany, State University of New York, who took part in a conference
call held by the environmental group Thursday afternoon.
Carpenter is a professor of environmental health and toxicology
and is an expert in PCBs in waterways. He has been working with the
In a creek sediment sample taken near Oxford State and Yankee
roads, levels of polychlorinated biphenyls concentrated at 5.9 parts
per million were discovered, the Cincinnati-based activists said.
Behind Amanda Elementary School, concentrations of 2 parts per
million were discovered in another sediment sample, they said.
And they point to AK Steel Corp. as the source of the manmade
“At some point, we have to say that AK Steel is the 800-pound,
PCB-releasing gorilla sitting on Dicks Creek,” Sierra Club member
Susan Knight said.
Knight contends that particular “Aroclors” — a Monsanto trade
name for certain PCBs — match those identified by the Environmental
Protection Agency and even AK’s own testing agency in separate
samplings on AK property.
“This basically fingerprints the source of the PCBs,” Carpenter
said, from Albany, N.Y., during the conference call.
But Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heather Lauer questioned whether the
activists have done enough work to make a definitive link to AK.
“Two samples — that’s a pretty limited number,” Lauer said.
She said the agency was not ready to draw conclusions from the
But Carpenter sounded convinced. He said that at levels of 1 to 5
parts per million, “something has to be done about it.” Materials
with concentrations higher than 10 parts per million must be taken
to a hazardous waste landfill, he said.
Knight argued that “Dicks Creek contains literally millions of
times the legal limit.”
Sheridan Avenue resident Peggy Littlejohn, 25, whose
eight-year-old daughter is an Amanda second-grader, called the
findings “scary.” She worries that children aren’t prevented from
playing in the creek before or after school.
“I drop her off when school starts, so I watch her walk in the
door,” Littlejohn said.
Joe DiStaola, Middletown City Schools business manager, said
children are not permitted in the creek during school hours. He
couldn’t comment on what happens before or after school.
AK commissioned its own study of the creek with Denver-based
Arcadis G&M. In 2001, AK said the study used EPA methods to find
that risks from chemicals “in the area of the creek” to be from “10
to more than 100 times below the level considered significant by the
U.S. EPA itself.”
“I don’t believe you will find anyone in the scientific community
that would be able to make any conclusion based on two data points,”
said Alan McCoy, AK vice president of public affairs, on Thursday
evening. “We will see if the activists attempt to present the
evidence in court. If the data is valid, it tell us nothing new.”
McCoy has said the Sierra Club has resisted AK’s efforts to
obtain the samples analysis in a legal discovery proceeding. State
and federal environmental protection agencies are suing AK in U.S.
District Court in Cincinnati, alleging violations of environmental
laws. The Sierra Club is an intervener in those proceedings.
The activists say they are willing to share their data.
McCoy said that upon finding out that the Sierra Club was hosting
the press to tell of the new finding, AK immediately contacted
Sierra Club lawyers for the finding and they objected on the
grounds, “it would be too burdensome, and that it was not relevant.”
“That tells me they have no intention to make this part of the
case, so it tells us it’s no more than a publicity stunt,” McCoy
AK HAS SAID that it has no operations that involve PCBs, but
Marilyn Wall, of Environmental Community Organization, said PCBs can
be found in lubricants leaking from discarded machinery.
Carpenter said the “cancer-causing” effects of PCBs have been
known for years. But he said neurological ailments resulting from
PCB exposure, especially among growing children, are beginning to be
better understood. Those ailments include a weakened attention span,
lowered intelligence and hormonal alterations.
“These are very dangerous chemicals, and probably the greatest
concern I would have is exposure to little girls,” Carpenter said.
With PCBs staying in bodies “on an average of seven years,” those
dangers could be passed on to children in the womb, he said.
Thomas Behlen, an Ohio assistant attorney general, declined
comment. But attorney general’s office spokesman Mark Gribben said
that while he has not seen the activists’ data, their contention is
“not a shock for us.”
“It has always been the contention of the attorney general’s
office that the PCB contamination in Dicks Creek is attributable to
AK Steel,” Gribben said.
“If they (the activists) had not done this, we would still be
prepared to go to court with the evidence that we had,” Gribben
Discovery in the litigation is scheduled to end in August. There
may be requests by both sides for summary judgment by November,
Gribben said. If the judge doesn’t grant such a judgment, a trial
date will be set, Gribben said.
Activists plan to hold a press conference today at the old Amanda
School, off Oxford State Road.
DiStaola said the school district denied the group permission to
have the event on nearby district property at Amanda Elementary
School. The district does not own the dilapidated former Amanda
School site where today’s press conference will be held.
The activists’ samples were collected last August. British
Columbia-based Axys Analytical Services performed the analysis for
$2,500 for each sample, Knight said.
Journal Staff Writer J. Ameer Rasheed contributed to this report.