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June 27, 2001
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[From the Dayton Daily News: 06.21.2001]

Report refutes pollution findings at AK Steel

Private firm says U.S. EPA study has ‘substantial overestimation’ of problems caused by chemicals found in Dicks Creek

By Dale Dempsey
Dayton Daily News

MIDDLETOWN | A private environmental firm, commissioned by AK Steel, has concluded that chemicals in Dicks Creek posed no risk to humans or the environment, findings that contradict U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studies that form the basis for the pending federal lawsuit against the company.

The study, by ARCADIS G&M, an environmental engineering firm based in Denver, says the methodologies and assumptions used by the U.S. EPA resulted in "a substantial overestimation of any actual risks and hazards," according to a press release Tuesday from the company.

The report comes at a time when community leaders are aiding AK Steel in its legal fight with the government. U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, sent a letter in May to U.S. EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman asking her to reconsider the lawsuit, calling it "punitive and counterproductive." AK Steel workers have also sent letters to Whitman saying the lawsuit could cost 3,700 jobs at the steel plant.

"AK Steel's Middletown Works is the largest manufacturer in the Eighth District of Ohio and has been providing Ohioans with high paying jobs for more than 100 years," Boehner's letter reads.

AK Steel has said the potential costs of the lawsuit and costs of installing pollution control devices could cause the company to reconsider its continued operation in Middletown.

David Ulrich, acting regional administrator of the U.S. EPA, responded to Boehner in late May saying the agency intends to hold AK Steel to the same environmental standards as its domestic competitors.

Ulrich's letter quoted AK Steel's 10-K financial report filing that said, "AK Steel does not anticipate any material impact on AK Steel's recurring operating costs or future profitability as a result of its compliance with current environmental regulations." According to the report, the company posted a profit of more than $300 million for the fiscal year ending in 2000, Ulrich said.

AK Steel produces flat-rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steel products. Its headquarters is in Middletown.

Karen Thompson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. EPA Region 5 in Chicago, said the agency received a copy of the ARCADIS report on Monday and is reviewing it prior to the lawsuit trial.

"It is coming up pretty quick," she said.

The U.S. attorney general's lawsuit against the company, which was joined by the Ohio attorney general, is scheduled for trial July 9 before U.S. District Judge Herman Weber in Cincinnati. Ulrich said the U.S. EPA is still willing to discuss a settlement with the company.

"We believe we have a sound case and we can show that high levels of PCBs in the creek came from AK Steel," said Stephanie Beougher, spokeswoman for the Ohio attorney general.

The federal government filed the lawsuit last June, charging the company with multiple violations of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, a hazardous waste statute, dating back to the early 1990s. The company could face retroactive fines ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 a day for each violation.

The U.S. EPA also issued an administrative order requiring the company to take immediate actions to prevent human exposure to sediments and surface water in Dicks Creek.

State and federal studies found polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at a concentration of 2.702 parts per billion in the creek. Ohio's standard for PCBs in surface water is 0.00079.

The ARCADIS report found chemicals in the creek 10 to 100 times lower than what the U.S. EPA considers significant, according to AK Steel's press release.

"The court should be given the opportunity to assess the considerable evidence presented by AK Steel that any chemicals of concern in the Dicks Creek study area pose no risk to humans, plants or animals, which casts serious doubts on all of EPA's allegations," said Alan H. McCoy, vice president, public affairs for AK Steel.

The ARCADIS report, using U.S. EPA guidance, assumed that people living near Dicks Creek "would each drink surface water directly out of Dicks Creek, eat mud from the very bottom of the creek and eat fish from the creek for over a 30-year period," AK Steel said.

The AK Steel press release also said the U.S. EPA ignored pollution upstream of the plant, not attempting to prosecute other responsible parties for contamination.

 Contact Dale Dempsey at 225-2270 or

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