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WASHINGTON - The United States and the State of Ohio today announced legal action against AK Steel Corporation, charging the steel giant with violating several environmental laws at its facility in Middletown, Ohio.

The Justice Department, on behalf of the U.S. EPA, and Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, on behalf of the Ohio EPA, assert that the Middletown-based AK Steel violated the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, a hazardous waste statute.

The federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati charges that the company has polluted an Ohio River tributary and has emitted largely uncontrolled amounts of pollutants into the air. The State of Ohio will move to intervene in the federal lawsuit to ensure compliance with Ohio's environmental laws.

"The public cares about clean air and clean water," said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources. "Companies that take short cuts in controlling pollution threaten our environment. We will hold them accountable."

The United States is seeking significant civil penalties from AK Steel under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Each statute authorizes a court to impose civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each day of violation prior to January 31, 1997, and $27,500 for each day thereafter.The federal complaint asserts that AK Steel violated these laws at various times from 1993 to the present.

"We will not allow companies to put our citizens and our most precious natural resources at risk by disregarding environmental laws," said Steve Herman, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "We will take legal action necessary to protect the public health and the environment, in Ohio and across the nation."

Today's action is based on investigations by the U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA and Attorney General Montgomery's office. Ohio will seek civil penalties of up to $25,000 per day per violation of clean air statutes and up to $10,000 per day per violation of clean water and hazardous waste statutes.

"This is a good example of state and federal government working together to address large-scale violations of environmental laws," Ohio Attorney General Montgomery said.

The complaint filed today also seeks an order from the court requiring AK Steel to capture uncontrolled air emissions; perform corrective action to study and remedy releases of hazardous waste from the facility; and take other steps to protect the environment.

The lawsuit charges that AK Steel for years illegally discharged PCBs into Dicks Creek, in the Mississippi River watershed. On one occasion, Ohio inspectors detected PCBs at a concentration of 2.702 ug/L (ppb) in surface water; Ohio's water quality standard for PCBs in surface water is 0.00079 ug/L.

"Ohio EPA investigators have gathered extensive evidence of AK Steel's blatant disregard for environmental compliance. This suit puts the company on notice that we won't tolerate it," said Ohio EPA Director Christopher Jones.

The complaint also asserts that AK Steel caused numerous chemical spills, at least two of which caused fish kills, one resulting in the death of about 12,700 fish. In addition, the complaint charges AK Steel with exceeding permit limits for heavy metals, nitrogen ammonia, and cyanide on numerous occasions. On at least two occasions, the company exceeded its permit limits for cyanide by more than 1,500 percent.

The Clean Air Act violations claimed in the suit stem primarily from AK Steel's failure to control emissions of particulate matter, or solid and liquid particles suspended in the air that can reduce visibility and lead to adverse health effects.

The complaint filed today also alleges that the company violated the Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act, which requires companies to properly manage and dispose of hazardous waste. AK Steel allegedly has caused releases into the environment of hazardous waste.

Today's action against AK Steel is part of a comprehensive, coordinated federal effort, known as the Mississippi River Initiative, to keep illegal pollution out of the Mississippi River and restore the river and surrounding communities to their historic grandeur. The cases comprising the initiative have addressed such violations as illegal dumping from barges; illegal filling of wetlands; spills of oil and other hazardous materials; sewer overflows; and discharges of chemicals such as cyanide, heavy metals, and hydrofluoric acid into the Mississippi River or its tributaries.