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Campaign for Clean Air in Middletown

Campaign for Clean Air in Middletown

Citizens launch campaign against AK Steel, 
a chronic environmental violator

As of April 2001, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, as an intervenor, have 25 claims of violations of environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) which governs hazardous waste against AK Steel. AK Steel is a very profitable steel plant in Middletown, Ohio.

These claims include at least 204 specific violations of AK Steel's water discharge permits over the last decade. AK Steel has illegally discharged excessive amounts of ammonia, phenolics, solids, oils, zinc, nickel, lead, excessive pH, free and total cyanide. They have had at least 40 spills ranging from unknown quantities to approximately 1,000,000 gallons. AK Steel has spilled oil, waste water, cyanide, zinc, lead, benzene, waste acid, and other toxics into Dicks Creek and the Great Miami River. At least two fish kills have occurred, killing over 10,000 fish each. AK Steel has allowed PCBs and PAHs (polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons) to seep from the land into Dicks Creek. Furthermore, the government charges that the Facility discharged waste and therefore caused nonattainment of aquatic life water quality standards for Dicks Creek and the Great Miami River.

Particulate pollution or soot and chemical fumes from AK Steel are causing a public nuisance to the nearby neighborhoods.

  • Residents say "We can sit in the backyard and watch the cloud come". And this is if residents choose to sit outdoors at all. Many complain of fallout of black particles, which make it difficult for them to enjoy their property. 
  • Every day (morning especially) black particles coat homes, roofs, cars, and outdoor furniture. This ruins the paint on cars, damages the roofs and siding of homes, and requires constant cleaning of belongings. Particles fill the rain gutters, and when wet this turns into a black sludge. Many state these black particles are such a nuisance they cannot open their windows, as the particles will coat the inside of their home. Trying to keep things clean is "fighting a losing battle", "No matter how much you wash anything there is always a layer of black dust on it" 
  • Many complain of increased allergies, respiratory problems, and headaches while some claim no adverse health effects. "Particles get in your eyes if you are working in the yard", "If you are outside for a while, you can blow your nose and black stuff comes out". "it is hard to breathe when it is humid and the odor is severe", afraid to eat food from the garden, cannot hang laundry to dry outside 
  • In the winter, particulates turns the snow black. 
  • "Sometimes on a clear sunny day you can see silver flakes in the air" 
  • Many complain of noise pollution 
  • Concern with smell "orange fog that smells like rotten eggs" 
  • Concern with possible explosion hazard "Every time there is a blast the house shakes and things fall off the walls"

Marti Sinclair, Marilyn Wall and Rachael Belz and many Ohio Citizen Action staff members have gone door to door in Middletown and talked to the residents about the effect AK Steel has had on their lives. For decades residents have complained to government about the pollution, the property damage, the effect on their health but AK Steel has not come into compliance and until the USEPA filed suit there was no serious effort by government to enforce the law. The stories people have to tell are stunning. Reading about the plant and the complaints doesn't fully describe what the people have had to live with day after day. Residents told us they used to swim and fish in Dicks Creek before they knew about the contamination, but all that has been taken away. They tried to have wading pools for kids in their own back yards but found they became too contaminated for the kids to play in. It's time AK Steel is cleaned up.

What you can do:

Write to Richard Wardrop, CEO, AK Steel and tell him to stop the pollution, clean up the past contamination and to meet with the residents and environmental groups about these issues. You can send your letter directly to CEO Wardrop at 703 Curtis Street, Middletown, Ohio 45043

Or you can send them to Sierra Club at 515 Wyoming Avenue, Cincinnati OH 45215.

We'd like to keep a count of letters and also send copies to USEPA to show them that there is public support for their efforts to bring AK Steel into compliance.


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