The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered a polluting steel
manufacturer to provide an alternate source of drinking water for a town
of more than 4,000 people. On June 7, EPA issued an emergency order to AK
Steel Corp., to provide an alternative water source to the residents of
Zelienople, and to reduce dangerous nitrate discharges from its steel mill.
Since 1995, AK Steel has more than tripled its waste discharges into Connoquenessing
Creek, up to as much as 29,000 pounds per day. These discharges cause high
concentrations of nitrate in the creek, a major drinking water source for
the city of Zelienople. Routine water sampling has shown nitrate levels
above the national standard of 10 milligrams (mg/l). The creek sometimes
shows nitrates as high as 100 mg/l, and registered a peak of 175 mg/l on
Oct. 26, 1999.
The order requires AK Steel to identify all people who draw drinking water
from the polluted waterway, including public and private wells near Connoquenessing
Creek, and to provide them with an alternate source of clean water. The
company must reduce its nitrate discharges by October 2001. Drinking water
with high concentrations of nitrates can cause serious illness and death
in infants under six months of age from a condition known as "blue
baby syndrome." For the past two years bottled water has been provided
to pregnant women and infants at the City's expense. EPA's order requires
an alternate water source - such as bottled water - for all customers of
the Zelienople water system, and shifts the cost to AK Steel.