Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 28, 2012

Coke plant to come down

AK Steel secures permits to demolish closed Ashland facility

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — AK Steel has secured a permit and hired a contractor to demolish its closed Ashland Coke Plant.

Demolition at the 138-acre site could start as early as Monday under the terms of the permit, but the company didn’t release any details on when contractor NCM Demolition and Remediation would begin its work.

Demolition work will start “in the near future” and probably will be completed by mid-2013, AK spokesman Barry Racey said.

The city doesn’t have much information on the demolition. Ashland issues the permit, but isn’t involved in the process, City Manager Steve Corbitt said. AK will have to adhere to the state and U.S. EPA regulations for dismantling the plant and any environmental cleanup.

“We don’t know if it will take a year or a month,” Corbitt said.

Racey couldn’t provide any details on the site’s remediation needs. “Obviously we will conduct the demolition under all government regulations and guidelines,” he said.

Demolition of the plant, which was closed in 2011, is good news for the city, said commissioner Kevin Gunderson. “It leaves a piece of land to develop for industrial use,” he said.

Effective reuse of coke plant property has been proven, Gunderson said, pointing to the New Boston, Ohio, coke plant site that has been redeveloped into a retail center.

Retail may not be feasible for the AK site, which is accessed by crossing CSX rail tracks in West Ashland, but it is ideal for industrial or commercial use, he said.

“It’s obviously a very valuable piece of property,” Corbitt said. “The infrastructure is all there and we could supply a million plus gallons a day of water.”

AK didn’t release any information on plans for the site. “It is premature to discuss any future plans at the plant, but this is a first step in potentially using it for other purposes,” Racey said.

The plant closing took with it 263 high-paying hourly and salaried jobs.

AK closed the aging plant, which produced fuel for its Ashland blast furnaces, because it was no longer cost-competitive. The company blamed increased maintenance and environmental regulations for that.

The coke plant had been in non-compliance with the Clean Air Act for about three years before its closing, according to the EPA website. The EPA had listed the plant’s violation as a high-priority violation.

Coke is a fuel made by baking coal in large ovens and is a key material in making steel. It disintegrates into the molten metal and adds carbon to it.

Ashland had had coke-making facilities since the early part of the 20th century.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.