AK Steel’s Rockport Works Committed To Environmental Protection

Middletown, OH, June 23, 2004—AK Steel (NYSE: AKS) said today that its Rockport Works, one of the most technologically advanced steel finishing plants in the world, is equally committed to world-class environmental protection.   In conjunction with the annual issuance of the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), AK Steel provided context and explanation for the company’s 2002 environmental data, which was included in the annual TRI summary issued by IDEM.

Each year AK Steel and other industrial manufacturers collect and submit to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data on their chemical usage and releases.   The EPA compiles this data and annually issues its TRI report, as do many states, including Indiana.  Many large industries, especially those involved in steel production, are typically listed among the companies using and releasing the most chemicals.  AK Steel is among those companies appearing on the Indiana list.

For reporting year 2002, the Rockport Works used and released 9 TRI chemicals.   Nitrates, the treated by-product of stainless steel pickling operations, accounted for more than 90% of the chemical releases reported by AK Steel in 2002.  The Rockport Works reported 20,831,000 pounds of nitrates discharged to the Ohio River, which was done lawfully and within the strict parameters of the company’s operating permits. 

For 2002, AK Steel said nitrate releases were up from the previous year, reflecting increased stainless steel finishing production and changes in the product mix at Rockport Works.   Rockport Works uses nitric acid solutions to remove oxides, or rust, and to help clean stainless steel. These solutions are then treated in Rockport Work’s wastewater system and discharged to the Ohio River as nitrates.

AK Steel said nitrates are widely released to the environment.   According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, seven Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin) released 29.8 billion pounds of nitrates in 2002 as a result of nitrogen-based fertilizer use.  In 2002, 4.2 billion pounds of nitrates were released in Indiana, according to the Indiana Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture.  The use of nitrogen-based fertilizer in Spencer County, Indiana in 2002 resulted in the release of nearly 71 million pounds of nitrates, which are not required to be reported to the EPA. 

AK Steel also notes that nearly 1.3 billion pounds of nitrates flow in the Ohio River above AK Steel’s discharge, according to data issued by The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (Cannelton, Indiana, July 2001 through May 2002).   Put another way, the additional nitrates from the Rockport Works increase the existing nitrate level in the river ahead of AK Steel’s discharge by only about 1.7 %. 

Even with the AK Steel discharge, the level of nitrates in the Ohio River immediately downstream of AK Steel’s discharge is well within the drinking water quality standards established by the federal government.  In other words, the Ohio River readily assimilates the level of nitrates in the river downstream of AK Steel’s discharge.

AK Steel said its Rockport Works’ air emissions are comparatively small, comprising less than 1% of total releases.   Ammonia made up the majority of the air releases listed in the 2002 data, and accounted for 15,800 pounds.  The ammonia is used to help reduce the level of nitrogen oxide (NOx) from the combustion stack of the plant’s galvanizing line, and is a requirement specified in AK Steel’s operating permit.  NOx is a contributor to ground-level ozone, and thus the small ammonia released is part of the effort to reduce harmful air emissions.  The ammonia is released through the combustion stack at a rate and altitude that insures a safe operation.  Notably, ammonia is also a common fertilizer utilized by agribusiness.

“AK Steel is committed to the environment and to supporting our local communities,” said Alan H. McCoy, AK Steel’s vice president of government and public relations. “Since joining the Rockport community in 1996, we have been dedicated to preserving our environment. This began with the plant’s design and continues through its operation and maintenance.”

More than $25 million was invested to equip the Rockport Works facility with exacting environmental controls. Each year, $5 million is spent to maintain and enhance these controls. AK Steel’s Rockport Works environmental management system is certified under the International Standards Organization (ISO) 14001. This certification ensures companies adhere to exacting environmental standards.

AK Steel’s Rockport Works has received other certifications and awards, reinforcing its focus on excellence in safety, quality and maintenance.  These include the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Voluntary Protection Program safety award, ISO/TS 16949 certification and the North American Maintenance Excellence award.

AK Steel is headquartered in Middletown, Ohio and has steel operations in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Pennsylvania, as well as tube operations in Ohio and Indiana.  The company primarily serves automotive, appliance, construction and manufacturing markets.