Two environmental groups took the first steps toward filing a Clean Air Act lawsuit against AK Steel, alleging the company's Dearborn plant exceeded air pollution limits thousands of times over the past five years.
The Sierra Club and Environment Michigan, represented by the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center and National Environmental Law Center, sent a notice of intent to sue on Wednesday to state and federal regulators and Cleveland Cliffs Inc., owner of the steel plant. The notice letter is the first step required to file a Clean Air Act lawsuit.
AK Steel’s plant in Dearborn is one of the state’s worst air pollution violators, according to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“AK Steel’s blatant disregard for the law, blatant disregard for permitted emission limits, and blatant disregard for the community they operate in must and will be met with full accountability,” Nicholas Leonard, executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center and one of the lawyers representing the groups, said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the suit will bring long needed relief to the residents of Southend Dearborn.”
The letter alleges that AK Steel repeatedly failed to comply with emissions limits for lead and manganese, both of which are neurotoxins and can cause serious health problems. The letter also documents hundreds of violations for the release of fine particulate matter emissions.
Since 2015, when AK steel agreed to pay $1.35 million to settle environmental violations, EGLE has cited the steel plant more than a dozen times for environmental violations.
“For years, AK Steel has done little to reduce its harmful impact on our community,” Samra’a Luqman, a Southend Dearborn resident and Sierra Club member, said. “After years of complaining about the impact the facility is having on our community, with few results, we are now taking matters into our own hands and demanding accountability.”
AK Steel stands near homes, a playground, and a public school.
Residents said they hope the lawsuit will protect children who live and play near the plant.
“Students deserve to learn in environments free from heavy pollution,”Eman Ahmed Ed. S, a local resident and educator, said. “We just want AK Steel to be a good neighbor. The public health of local students, teachers and staff depend on it.”
To file a lawsuit under the Clean Air Act, attorneys must issue a 60-day warning to a company.
“There is no place for lead and other harmful pollutants in the air our children breathe,” John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America and its state chapter, Environment Michigan, said. “At this point, we have no choice but to use the tools of the Clean Air Act to stop this pollution.”
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