Fluoride Action Network

Feds Probe Steel Plants

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Posted on August 13th, 1996
Industry type: Steel Industry

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the FBI are investigating possible criminal violations of pollution regulations at three local Allegheny Ludlum Corp. plants and facilities in Connecticut and Indiana.

The grand jury investigation, which began last fall, involves allegations that the company failed to report violations of the Clean Water Act or filed incomplete and inaccurate reports about violations. A secondary aspect of the investigation involves possible violations of the Clean Air Act.

The criminal investigation grew out of a civil lawsuit the government filed in June 1995 against Allegheny Ludlum. The lawsuit charges Allegheny Ludlum with illegally dumping metals, oil and other pollutants into waterways near plants in Western Pennsylvania and Connecticut between 1987 and 1995. The civil lawsuit does not involve the fifth plant, in New Castle, Ind., that is part of the grand jury investigation. The U.S. attorney’s office has subpoenaed thousands of internal company documents, as well as thousands of records from the EPA, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and its counterparts in Indiana and Connecticut. Allegheny Ludlum employees and former employees have been contacted by prosecutors.

One of those workers, Gregg E. Eckstein, 49, a former environmental affairs manager, was sued by Allegheny Ludlum in U.S. District Court on April 15. Judge Robert J. Cindrich ordered that documents filed in the case be closed to the public. The EPA’s civil lawsuit against Allegheny Ludlum also is assigned to Cindrich.

Contacted yesterday about the probe, Allegheny Ludlum spokesman Bert Delano said the company ”would have no comment on the litigation.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Constance M. Bowden, the prosecutor involved in the investigation, cited Justice Department policy yesterday and said she could neither confirm nor deny the existence of the probe.

News of the grand jury investigation comes as Allegheny Ludlum prepares to merge with Teledyne Inc. of Los Angeles. Shareholders are expected to approve the merger at meetings Thursday. The merger would create a Pittsburgh-based metals giant called Allegheny Teledyne, with annual sales of more than $ 4 billion. Richard P. Simmons, Ludlum’s chairman and largest stockholder, will be chairman of the combined company.

Allegheny Ludlum has disclosed the civil lawsuit over the Clean Water Act in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission but has made no mention of a grand jury investigation.

Allegheny Ludlum has been cited for repeated environmental violations in the past several years at its plants in Brackenridge, Vandergrift and West Leechburg. The company was fined $ 350,000 to settle complaints filed against it by the state DEP in 1992 and 1993.

Federal attorneys with the EPA and the Justice Department charged in the civil lawsuit filed last year that Allegheny Ludlum failed to comply with terms of the state agreements.

An FBI report on environmental prosecutions in May said the agency considers a priority companies which are repeat environmental offenders and which ”view civil penalties as a business expense.”

Two months ago, the government said in court documents that the violations have been ”serious and frequent” and have included oil discharges, toxic metals dumping and discharges into the Allegheny and Kiskiminetas rivers of substances that are prohibited by government environmental permits.

The government also said Allegheny Ludlum’s repeated violations ”undermine or wholly belie” the company’s contentions that it had attempted to comply with the agreements and had taken steps to remedy the problems.

The company has dumped a variety of chemicals and metals into the Allegheny and Kiskiminetas rivers at the Vandergrift, West Leechburg and Brackenridge plants at levels that exceed those allowed by their permits, the government has charged in its civil suit:

*In Vandergrift, there have been excess discharges into the Kiskiminetas River of chromium, nickel, copper, iron and an acid rinse slurry from a treatment plant.

*In West Leechburg and the adjoining Bagdad plant in Armstrong County, most of the violations have included the illegal discharges of oil into the Kiskiminetas River and into Elder Run. There have been excess discharges of zinc, grease, lime slurry and in August 1994, hydrofluoric acid.

*In Brackenridge, which also includes the Natrona plant, there have been excess discharges into the Allegheny River of nickel, zinc, dolomite – a rock similar to limestone – and oily waste on 20 occasions.

In some instances, the levels of metals discharged was more than 10 times the level allowed by environmental permits. On one occasion, Feb. 10, 1993, the chromium discharged into the Kiskiminetas River from the Vandergrift plant was 35 times the limit allowed by the permit.

All three of the plants also had dozens of violations of allowable pH levels, which gauge the acidity of the water around the plants.

*In Wallingford, Conn., about 10 miles north of New Haven, the EPA has charged that Allegheny Ludlum dumped oil, grease, chromium, fluoride and iron into the Quinnipiac River and a tributary without a permit between March 1987 and March 1995.

*The New Castle, Ind., plant, located about 50 miles east of Indianapolis, has been cited by the state Department of Environmental Management there for violations of air quality standards in its emissions, said Ann Germann, a department spokeswoman.

To settle the state’s complaints, Allegheny Ludlum paid a $ 500 fine in 1988 and in 1993 paid a total $ 12,000 in fines.

The company was cited once last year for an equipment malfunction at the Indiana plant and it has been cited twice so far this year for air quality violations of opacity, or the thickness of debris being discharged through its smokestacks, Germann said.

Allegheny Ludlum has also reported violations of its environmental permits at the New Castle plant in each of the last three years for dumping excess amounts of chromium and nickel, said Russ Grunden, another department spokesman.

Allegheny Ludlum manufactures stainless steel products at all of the plants that are part of the grand jury investigation.