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Campaign for Clean Air in Middletown


NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release:

Contacts:

September 6, 2001

Marilyn Wall, (513) 761-4003

Top Environmental Groups Seek to Join EPA and State of Ohio's Lawsuit Against AK Steel

Sierra Club and NRDC File an Intervention on Behalf of Local Citizens Directly Affected by Serious Water, Air and Waste Pollution

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Lawyers from the Exxon Valdez Case to Lead Legal Team for Environmental Groups

(September 6, 2001- Cincinnati) - Two leading environmental groups today sought to become plaintiffs in the Federal EPA and State of Ohio's lawsuit against AK Steel for numerous violations of the Clear Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, a statute that governs waste removal. The Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a motion to intervene with Judge Herman J. Weber in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, so as to join one of the most important environmental battles in Ohio's history.

This action follows AK Steel's refusal this past spring to meet with the Sierra Club and local citizens to discuss the effects of the pollution on people living and working in the immediate and surrounding area of the Middletown, Ohio plant.

Since May, the Sierra Club - which has 17,500 members in Ohio - and Ohio Citizen Action and ECO have gone door to door in Middletown to hear the citizens' views on the pollution from AK Steel's operations. Complaints included houses, pools, and outdoor furniture covered daily by black dust, noxious fumes, and the loss of Dicks Creek, a local tributary of the Ohio River, as a recreational spot. Many reported increased allergies, respiratory problems, and headaches.

"We want to join this case to make sure that the people breathing this air and drinking this water are heard. The complaints filed by the EPA and State of Ohio tell the facts of the case, but there's nothing like hearing from the residents what it's really like to live with this pollution day after day," said Marilyn Wall, Conservation Chair of the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club. "We heard story after story of people waking up to find their cars covered in soot, and houses needing to be sprayed down frequently to get rid of the black dust."

"Clearly, AK Steel is not interested in hearing about how their plant has harmed the health and quality of life of the local community," said Steve Crandall, lead attorney for the environmental groups with Milberg Weiss Berhad Hynes and Lerach, LLP, a class action firm specializing in environmental and labor issues. "But their egregious violations drew great concern from the Sierra Club and the NRDC, who want to not only support and bolster the government's efforts to bring justice to Middletown, but to provide a direct voice for local citizens who experience the effects of the pollution on a daily basis."

The U.S. Justice Department, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, filed its complaint against AK Steel on June 29, 2000. Charges include 204 specific violations of air, water, and hazardous waste laws. The State of Ohio became an intervening plaintiff, the status the Sierra Club and NRDC are now seeking, on July 9, 2001.

Specific allegations include:

  •  The illegal discharge of PCBs into Dicks Creek
  • Numerous chemical spills, at least two of which caused fish kills
  • Failing to control emissions of particulate matter
  • The illegal release of hazardous waste into the environment, including cyanide, waster water, zinc, lead, benzene, waste acid, among other toxic materials

"We want to do everything we can to make sure that AK Steel is held accountable in what is one of the most serious cases of pollution and environmental damage in Ohio's history, and that a just and fair settlement can reached," said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., staff attorney at NRDC, a national environmental group with 12,000 members in Ohio.

Next Monday, September 10, Judge Herman Weber will preside over a hearing on AK Steel's motion to dismiss portions of the cases brought against them by the federal and state governments.

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