Gansler settles with steel mill

Bryan Cohen Oct. 13, 2011, 11:41am


BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) - Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced an agreement on Thursday with the new owner of the Sparrows Point steel mill to resolve alleged violations of the state's air pollution control laws.

The agreement between RG Steel Sparrows Point LLC, Gansler and the Maryland Department of the Environment requires that the company take steps to minimize emissions from its blast furnace. In 2009, under the operation of prior owner Severstal Sparrows Point LLC, a pressure surge caused the escape of burning gas and iron-making material and a visible flame shooting from the furnace.

The agreement also requires RG Steel to pay $135,000 to the Maryland Clean Air Fund.

"We all breathe the same air and keeping it as clean as possible is vitally important to the health of every Marylander," Gansler said. "This agreement will help our neighbors who live and work near Sparrows Point and reinforces our commitment to promoting a healthy environment."

The consent decree resolves a lawsuit MDE filed against RG Steel on Sept. 9 that was prompted by the 2009 incident in the facility's L-blast furnace, a tall, chimney-like structure used to extract, reduce and melt iron. The furnace has emergency bleeder valves that are designed to open to prevent over-pressurization that could lead to a breach or explosion. During normal operations, the bleeders are closed and will not emit any pollutants.

On Sept. 29, 2009, a pressure surge caused the bleeder valves to open while a batch of iron-rich coke used in the production process was being fed into the furnace. The force of the escaping blast furnace gas, which contained the pollutants carbon monoxide and particulate matter, forced coke out of some of the bleeder valves. The escaping blast furnace gas and coke ignited, resulting in a visible flame.

The consent decree requires RG Steel to implement practices that will minimize emissions from the blast furnace by preventing prolonged or unnecessary activation of its pressure relief valves. The consent decree also resolves alleged violations involving the steel-making facility's Pennwood Power Station, cold reduction mill, basic oxygen furnace, blast furnace stove stack, blast furnace casthouse and sintering plant.

RG Steel purchased the Sparrows Point facility from Severstal on April 1.

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