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AK Steel OKs Creek Cleanup Plans

March 2, 2001

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A steelmaker that polluted a Pennsylvania creek will provide bottled water to residents of a town that uses it as a secondary water source. AK Steel also agreed to pay for the creek’s cleanup, too.

``AK Steel has made a legally binding commitment that the residents of Zelienople will no longer be at risk from pollution of their drinking water,″ said Thomas Voltaggio, the acting Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator in Philadelphia.

Connoquenessing Creek serves as a backup water supply to Zelienople Borough, about 15 miles north of Pittsburgh. About 1,400 homes use the creek as a backup water supply.

Nitrates are a byproduct of the process of ``pickling,″ which scours steel of dirt and corrosion. In drinking water, the chemical can cause ``blue baby syndrome,″ a condition that impairs metabolism and deprives brains of oxygen in infants.

The EPA said AK Steel, based in Middletown, Ohio, has already converted one of the five pickling lines at its Butler County plant to use a process that does not produce nitrates. The plant’s other lines will be converted as well.

Last June, the EPA issued an emergency order requiring AK Steel to supply bottled water to residents. The company balked, saying its permit from the state included no limit on nitrates.

Alan McCoy, a spokesman for AK Steel, said the company was within its permit guidelines.

``I want to underscore the fact it (the discharge of nitrates) was lawful and the result of increased production,″ McCoy said, adding that there had been no reports of health problems.

Patrick Boyle, a spokesman for the EPA, said the agency was willing to give AK Steel more time because it agreed to the other conditions _ including the conversion of pickling lines.

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