Few show support for AK at hearingBy Thomas Gnau
Journal Business Writer
AK Steel Corp. didn’t have many friends at an Ohio
Environmental Protection Agency hearing at Middletown High
School Wednesday evening.
More than 20 people attended. Nine of ten speakers opposed
modifying a permit which the agency says will let AK increase
the amount of free cyanide in wastewater discharge from
Middletown Works to the Great Miami River.
Before the hearing, AK retiree Curt Compton pointedly asked
if the agency miscalculated the company’s permit limits nearly
a decade ago. AK has said it wants to correct an agency
mistake, not increase cyanide amounts.
“If the (agency) had not made a mistake nine years ago,
would we not be here tonight?” said Compton, a Middletown
“I don’t think any errors were made,” said Mary Osika, of
the agency’s Division of Surface Water in Dayton, adding
moments later: “We understood how the limits were calculated
nine years ago. So did the company.”
Agency representatives stuck to that argument after the
nearly two-hour meeting.
“The companies are supposed to give us the numbers for the
permits,” said Andy Thompson, an agency spokesman. He added
that AK “gave us the flow rate they wanted.”
When pressed on whether he thought AK made a mistake,
Thompson said he didn’t think there was a mistake.
“I’ll reiterate that they used the wrong flow rate” when
crafting AK’s 1992 discharge permit, AK Vice President of
Public Affairs Alan McCoy said Tuesday.
He has said AK discovered the error but the agency refused
to correct it when AK’s permit was renewed in 1997. After
appealing to a state environmental review commission, the
agency agreed to settle the issue in AK’s favor in May 2001,
he has said.
“We are not asking for more flow than is there today and
has been there for years,” he said.
Asked if the new limits would affect human or aquatic life,
Jim Simpson, unit manager in the agency’s Dayton office, said,
“They should not, no.”
Osika said AK has not exceeded cyanide limits since early
2000. The company monitors its own discharge, but the agency
conducts inspections, too, she said.
She said she visits Middletown Works from one to 12 times a
“They’re not proposing ... any significant increases in
their discharge,” Osika said.
Marilyn Wall, of the Sierra Club’s Ohio chapter, said AK’s
own reports show it can meet current limits.
“This raises fundamental questions as to the need to raise
the limits,” she said.