Community leaders charged today that Evraz Claymont Steel is failing to curb troublesome and potentially hazardous metallic soot emissions, despite years of complaints and a state ultimatum.
Claymont area resident Dee Whilden attributed most recent improvements to plant maintenance shutdowns and the recession, rather than improved environmental performance.
“It’s kind of bittersweet. We are still seeing it now. It’s not anywhere near what it was, but that’s because production is way down,” Whilden said. “We want to see business come to the area. We’re not being hard-nosed. It means employment, but we’re also concerned about the health of residents, the vegetation here, wildlife, the whole picture.”
State officials have
branded the metallic soot a “nuisance,” but not a health threat.
Community residents objected, eventually organizing their own
monitoring program with support from a California-based environmental
group, Global Community Monitor, and financing from the steel plant
under an agreement with the state Department of Natural
The steel plant, owned by a firm based in Russia, recycles scrap metal into specialty steel plates, and has been mentioned as a potential supplier to the offshore wind industry that state and federal officials hope will develop throughout the Atlantic Coast region in coming years.
"Evraz is going to need to make a significant investment in the facility to get it running cleaner,” said Ruth Breech, Program Director of Global Community Monitor. “The Russian owners should put Claymont at the top of their to-do list."
Company and state officials were not immediately available for comment.
Residents have complained for several years about dust and metallic soot from the factory’s melting operations, scrapyard and slag piles.
DNREC put the plant under a "clean up or shut down" order in 2006, after tests revealed that the factory’s mercury emissions were far higher than reported. The cleanup order also called for cuts in soot releases, but regulators warned the company late last year that it was failing to meet its obligations.
Testing during the initial effort showed higher than normal levels of lead and manganese, and a pollution “fingerprint” matching the steel factory’s.
Of 67 samples collected over several months, nine had manganese levels exceeding one Environmental Protection
A state advisory group has since agreed to finance additional work, supported by funds from a polluter penalty account.
Contact Jeff Montgomery at 678-4277 or email@example.com