Living downstream from AK Steel

Dick's Creek runs to the south of AK Steel

Middletown map

INSET: The aerial photo of Dick's Creek, below,
shows outfalls and groundwater seeps.

42 photos of Dick's Creek
Warning sign The Ohio EPA and the Middletown Department of Health have posted these warning signs along the creek. Dick's Creek is one of only five waterways in Ohio deemed unsafe for any of these activities.

For over 15 years, citizens, specialists, reporters and industry have been monitoring specific points along Dick's Creek for contamination, taking tests and samples of the water, sediment, and aquatic life. Much of this evidence points to Middletown's AK Steel as the primary polluter of the creek. AK Steel has received permits under the Clean Water Act, allowing them to legally dump certain amounts of pollutants into points along Dick's Creek, which are called "outfalls."

From November 1988 through March 1999, Ohio EPA cited AK Steel for dozens of violations of their Clean Water Act permits, including: exceeding daily allowed levels of free cyanide, zinc, excessive pH levels, spills of "flushing liquor", spent pickle liquor, sulfuric acid, fish kills from unknown discharges, and consistent problems with the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). AK hired an environmental consulting group in 1997, Arcadis, who monitors Dick's Creek. Arcadis publishes a quarterly report to Ohio EPA.

Documents from the Ohio EPA show that AK's violations have continued since 1999. The most recent PCB violation occurred July 31, 2003 when a PCB "seep" -- a spot where water trickles out of the ground to form a pool -- was found along the banks of Dick's Creek.

Though AK Steel's current operations do not result in the production of PCBs, PCBs have apparently leaked out into the creek as a result of dumping done by AK Steel in the past. PCBs do not break down in the environment, and have moved on into the fillets and tissue of fish and the sediment of the creek. Samples of fish and sediment from 1997, 2000, and 2002 show a consistent presence of PCBs. In August 2002, the Sierra Club sent water samples from Dick's Creek to a lab specializing in PCBs. The test results, released in May, 2003, showed dangerously high levels of PCBs in the creek. These tests prompted the Ohio EPA to conduct further testing that "fingerprinted" many of these PCBs, proving they came from AK Steel. Experts warn that PCBs will keep seeping into the creek if AK Steel does not have a proper treatment process. In other cases of this magnitude, dredging the sediment has been the most useful solution. The U.S. EPA sued AK Steel in June 2000 over their violations of the Clean Water Act, citing numerous spills and fish kills in Dick’s Creek. The Ohio EPA, Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council have also joined in this enforcement case. This lawsuit is pending.

At the urging of the community, AK Steel built a fence behind Amanda Elementary in April 2004 to restrict access to Dick's Creek.

Amanda School fence
Please take a moment to e-mail AK Steel CEO James Wainscott.

Urge him to clean up the pollution in Dick's Creek, and truly be a good neighbor.

Research by Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund and ECO: Environmental Community Organization, with the assistance of the Seasongood Foundation.