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Jun. 24, 2001
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Sunday, June 24, 2001

Health in jeopardy at creek, state says


OEPA criticizes study reported by AK Steel

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is urging the public to avoid using Dicks Creek as a place for recreation — swimming, wading or fishing — because it still poses a threat to public health.

        The OEPA issued its warning in the wake of a risk assessment report done for AK Steel that concluded the creek is not a threat to humans or the environment.

        “The public should not be misinformed by the statements issued by AK Steel in a company press release on June 19,” according to an OEPA press release from Friday.

        AK Steel reported a study done for them by ARCADIS G&M, an environmental engineering firm based in Denver, concluded there is no health risk to humans or the environment from low levels of chemicals found in Dicks Creek, a tributary of the Great Miami River that runs by the property of AK Steel's Middletown Works.

        “We just thought that was irresponsible,” said Andrew Thompson, a spokesman for the OEPA of a press release by AK Steel saying the creek posed no threat. “Something needed to be done and we needed to address that.”

        But Alan McCoy, vice president of public affairs for AK Steel, said the company is not encouraging people to begin using Dicks Creek again.

        Signs have been posted at the creek since 1995 warning people to avoid coming into contact with the creek and fishing its waters. That year, OEPA detected PCBs in the sediments of the creek near AK Steel. OEPA said the PCBs came from AK Steel, but the company says the source is somewhere upstream from them.

        “Signs have been posted saying the water may not be safe for fishing, swimming or drinking,” Mr. McCoy said. “Those signs are still there and until the court determines those signs should not be there, people should heed those warnings.”

        The creek runs east-west for about 7 miles just south of Oxford State Road before emptying into the Great Miami River.

        The U.S. EPA filed a lawsuit in June 2000 asking a federal court to order AK Steel to address the levels of chemicals in Dicks Creek. An administrative order was issued by the U.S. EPA in August 2000 asking essentially the same thing because the chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), posed an imminent or substantial risk to public health.

        AK Steel filed a motion earlier this month in federal court asking the administrative order be stayed until the suit is determined by the court. The risk assessment study was submitted with the motion.

        The study, conducted over a period of five years, concluded the levels of chemicals in the creek were low, and that the sources of the chemicals were multiple.

        “No. 1, there are low levels, and they pose no danger to either human health or habitat,” said Mr. McCoy of the ARCADIS study conclusions. “No. 2, a significant source of those low levels of chemicals are upstream of AK Steel. So there are multiple sources.”

        Mr. Thompson said the OEPA still considers the creek a danger, and the conclusions reached by ARCADIS are not sanctioned by any local, state or federal agencies.

       



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