AK Steel to Pay $300,000 to Settle Butler, Pa., Environmental Violations
Dec. 3AK Steel, already operating under a 2001 consent order that required it to stop discharging tons of pollutants into Connoquenessing Creek, has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle additional charges it violated federal and state hazardous waste, air and water standards at its specialty steel mill in Butler.
The fine was the result of a nationwide U.S. Environmental Protection initiative that looked at pollution emitted by specialty steel producers and was the largest paid by any of the 26 mini-mills operating in the mid-Atlantic states.
Under terms of the consent order announced by the EPA yesterday, AK Steel will also fund three environmental projects at an estimated cost of $900,000 that will benefit the Butler County community where the mini-mill operates.
One of those projects requires it to reduce its annual emissions of nitrogen oxides, a component of unhealthy smog, by 159 tons.
"The emissions reductions required by this settlement will lead to cleaner air and significant environmental benefits," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Sansonetti.
According to the EPA, an inspection in the summer of 2000 documented improper storage and disposal of dust containing high concentrations of hexavalent chromium, a chemical known to cause human cancer. The material, collected from emissions of the mill's electric arc furnaces, was found on the ground where it had spilled as it was loaded for off-site disposal.
"We saw dust containing lead and chromium lying on the ground," Jim Kenney, the EPA's lead inspector at AK Steel, said. "It wasn't managed as a hazardous waste."
The subsidiary of Middletown, Ohio-based AK Steel Holding Corp. also was cited for failing to inspect hazardous waste storage tanks, discharging contaminated water into Sawmill Run Reservoir, a tributary of Connoquenessing Creek, and leaking ozone layer-depleting chloroflorocarbon refrigerants on 145 separate occasions from mid-1998 through the fall of 2002.
One of the community projects is a $30,000 refrigerant recycling program that will collect old refrigerators, air conditioners and other cooling appliances that contain chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, in Butler County.
The steelmaker violated Clean Air Act safeguards designed to prevent equipment leaks of CFCs at its mini-mill on 145 occasions from mid-1998 through the fall of 2002. CFCs deplete upper atmosphere ozone that protects the earth from ultraviolet radiation.
Alan McCoy, an AK Steel spokesman, said the firm has been working with the EPA for several months and "is pleased we were able to reach a settlement."
The illegal waste water discharge into Sawmill Run Reservoir occurred three months after a federal appeals court denied AK Steel's request to delay implementation of an EPA emergency order to reduce discharges of potentially dangerous nitrates into Connoquenessing Creek, which the town of Zelienople uses as a supplemental water supply.
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© 2004, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.