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AK Steel fined for violations

Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

ASHLAND -- AK Steel has signed a consent decree that calls for the company to pay $1.625 million in civil penalties to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and spend about $2 million to reduce air emissions at the company's steel plant. The company also will pay $25,000 in civil penalties to Kentucky regulators.

The civil penalties are based on three notices of violations by the federal EPA and 32 by Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection concerning air emissions from the company's now-closed coke plant between 20005 and 2010.

The company shut down the coke plant along Winchester Avenue (U.S. 23 and U.S. 60) in 2011, putting about 100 people out of work. Other coke plant employees took jobs with the company's still operating steel plant or took early retirement.

The required work to reduce air emissions at the company's steel plant is part of Kentucky regulators' decision to forego its share of penalty dollars to help pay for that work.

"The terms of the agreement provide closure to what has been a lengthy process," Bruce Scott, DEP department commissioner, said in a prepared release. "It is our hope that the AK coke facility site will be redeveloped for future job creation.

"In addition we chose to further invest in and help the local community by using Kentucky's portion of the assessed penalty dollars to make improvements at the adjacent AK Steel Works facility."

The steel company will install a dust boss, mists to keep the dust down at the plant slag handling area and a nitrogen lance to help reduce particulate emissions from the steel-making process, said John Lyons, director for the Division of Air Quality.

A company spokesman said AK Steel doesn't have an update about the air emission improvements at this time or when they might be installed and operational.

The consent agreement was reached without AK Steel admitting to the alleged violations.

In a news release, AK Steel said it appreciated the cooperation of the Commonwealth of Kentucky during the settlement negotiation process that enabled a portion of the company's assessed penalty to be applied to environmental improvement projects at the steel plant.

The company permanently closed its Ashland coke plant because it was no longer cost competitive due to increased maintenance costs and increasingly stringent environmental regulations, according to the company release. Corporate-wide, AK Steel spent $85 million on environmental-related capital projects and more than $1.1 billion to operate and maintain its environmental controls from 2003 to the 2012, according to the release.

AK Steel hired NCM Demolition and Redemption last year to tear down the plant. Several structures at the old coke plant were torn down in controlled explosions earlier this week.

The federal EPA has taken the lead in cleanup of the coke plant property, according to Tony Hatton, director of the Kentucky division of waste management. It will up to that agency to determine if corrective action is necessary. "It can be a drawn-out process," he said Thursday.

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