November 16, 2008
Study: Steel mill dust may be toxic
Excessive lead, manganese found in Claymont
By KRISTIN HARTY
The News Journal
CLAYMONT -- A
preliminary report measuring specific air pollutants near the Claymont
Steel mill confirms what some residents have long suspected: Metallic
soot that settles every day on cars, windows and porches might be
hazardous to their health.
75 people gathered at Claymont Elementary School on Saturday morning to
hear the findings of the much-anticipated study, which used dust
samples collected by residents to measure levels of lead and manganese.
indicated that residents who live near the mill "may have increased
risk of health effects" associated with chronic exposure to manganese
exposure can cause damage to the nervous system with symptoms of
fatigue, loss of memory and attention, concentration difficulty,
nightmares, unusual sweating, sexual dysfunction and joint pain, the
more than just a nuisance," said Denny Larson, executive director of
Global Community Monitor, a San Francisco environmental nonprofit that
helps communities monitor neighborhoods.
by the state -- with a $50,000 contribution from Claymont Steel -- GCM
will continue to monitor air pollution in the area as part of the
yearlong project. Saturday's report is preliminary, Larson stressed.
years, residents who live near the 87-year-old mill have complained
about the metallic dust that rains down on their homes and cars. In
late 2005 and the first nine months of 2006, Delaware's Department of
Natural Resources and Environmental Control received more than 100
complaints about the dust, which can be gathered with a magnet.
we complain, DNREC always says [the dust] is too heavy to breathe,"
said Jerry McCoy, who's lived near the steel mill for more than 30
years. "You can't have a lot of dust like that and not have dust that's
left in the air that you can breathe."
summer, a citizen-led watchdog group formed to monitor pollution from
the mill on Philadelphia Pike between I-495 and Naamans Road. The plant
came under fire last year when Delaware officials said illegal
emissions contaminated with mercury had the potential to harm "human,
plant, or animal life, or to unreasonably interfere with the enjoyment
of life or property."
Steel general manager Victor Parker attended Saturday's public hearing,
but said he couldn't comment about the report because he hadn't had a
chance to review it.
was here today just to see the results of the study," Parker said,
after a woman in the audience asked him whether employees received
physicals to monitor their health.
said the company will host a public meeting "after the first of the
year" to review the report and explain the steel mill's manufacturing
process and its compliance with environmental regulations.
GCM's Larson said residents are eager to meet with company representatives to find solutions.
really want to sit down with Claymont Steel and work out a program that
will eliminate the dust from traveling out into the community," Larson
said. "It's not healthy for you. It's not good for your property and
study, residents collected 42 air samples -- 37 outdoor and five indoor
-- from July 25 to Oct. 2. Eight of the 37 outdoor samples contained
levels of manganese that exceed EPA standards; four of 37 contained
lead levels that exceeded those standards. Most of the samples were
collected by people who live within a mile of the mill, and levels of
the particles were higher when the wind was blowing toward their homes.
way the economy is, who can move?" said Nichole Wilson, of the
Knollwood neighborhood near the plant. She said her 11-year-old son
suffers from a number of symptoms associated with lead exposure,
including attention deficit disorder and a weakened immune system.
Claymont Community Coalition President George Losse encouraged residents to keep logs and report problems.
don't want to close the plant," said Losse, noting that some
improvements have been made. "But we don't want to put up with
emissions. All they have to do is whatever they have to do to enclose
that -- to keep it in their fenceline."