Dicks Creek samples will provide polluters’
‘fingerprints'By Sheri King
Ray Agee learned to swim in Dicks Creek. On Saturday — despite
the nearly 100-degree temperatures — he donned protective gear and
joined about 20 volunteers taking sediment and water samples to test
for dangerous levels of pollutants.
“I’m in the creek for the people of Middletown, especially for
the children,” the 61-year-old Agee said, pointing toward Amanda
Only a field separates the school, which will house more than 500
children this fall, from Dicks Creek. Susan Knight from the Sierra
Club in Cincinnati said she suspects the creek is full of PCBs,
The samples taken Saturday will be sent to an environmental lab
where they will provide a “fingerprint” of who is dumping the
dangerous pollutants in Dicks Creek, she said. Knight said the No. 1
suspect is Middletown’s AK Steel.
Once the environmental lab returns its findings on the research,
Knight said the Sierra Club will be able to compare it to a list of
AK’s known emissions and pinpoint whether the steel giant is the
culprit who’s polluting Dicks Creek.
“If it is AK, we’d like to sit down with them and advocate for
facilities changes to stop the pollution,” said Knight, who added
the results will be back in several months.
Alan McCoy, vice president of public affairs for AK Steel, said
the company has no plans to sit down and discuss any findings with
the Sierra Club.
Another purpose behind the Sierra Club’s tests is to educate the
community about what is in Dicks Creek, Knight said.
The Sierra Club suspects the creek is so contaminated with heavy
metals and PCBs that it only allowed people like Knight, who has had
40 hours of specialized training in handling hazardous wastes and
was dressed in a hazmat suit, to take samples from the most polluted
part of the creek.
Middletown volunteers were not permitted in dangerous areas, she
Her best advice to Middletown residents? “Stay away from the
creek. Period,” she said.
The U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA have filed suit against AK for
alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. AK, which maintains its
innocence, has been fighting the lawsuit for two years, and the suit
“Unfortunately, while such a lengthy court battle goes on,
nothing is protecting the residents of Middletown whose children and
pets have only a small sign separating them from dangerous
carcinogens,” Knight said in a prepared statement.
The signs were posted by the Middletown Health Department,
warning residents to avoid the waterway, she said.
McCoy said because the issue is the subject of a federal lawsuit,
they won’t discuss it.
He also said he questions the Sierra Club’s intent. On Wednesday,
a car with three women in it trespassed on AK’s property, McCoy
said. The license plate on the car traced to Marilyn Wall, chairman
of the Ohio chapter of the Sierra Club, he claimed.
McCoy said the alleged trespasser was in a hazmat suit and
company officials don’t know what the person was doing near AK’s
outfall to Dicks Creek.
Wall said she was monitoring Dicks Creek on Wednesday, but she
did it from the Amanda School site; from the site of a welding
company that gave them permission; and from a public roadway.
“We have no intention of trespassing on anyone’s property,” she
AK has employed a worldwide environmental assessment firm for
nearly five years to assess AK’s effect on Dicks Creek and the firm
has said there is no danger, McCoy said.
“We don’t believe there is any potential for harm to humans or
aquatic life,” McCoy said. “We have tested the waters of Dicks Creek
and they do not contain detectable levels of PCBs.”
McCoy said at least 15 or 20 more businesses also release
materials into Dicks Creek and AK has learned that in 1995, PCBs
were released into the Miami River upstream from AK’s intake. Those
PCBs could have entered Dicks Creek through AK’s intake, he said.