Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 1, 2012

Coke plant demolition will be under state scrutiny

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — Demolishing AK Steel’s Ashland Coke Plant is poised to begin, and the company is in discussions with state waste authorities about the cleanup process at the site.

However, environmental cleanup started immediately after the plant was closed in 2011 and much of the work has been completed, according to AK spokesman Barry Racey.

The company has removed nearly 2,000 tons of tars and other materials from tanks and vessels at the site and recycled the materials at a coking operation at another site, Racey said in an email.

Before the first walls tumble down, state regulations require the company to develop a plan based on what is on the site and how it plans to handle the process, and submit a set of documents called a site characterization to the state, said Kentucky Division of Waste Management director Tony Hatton.

AK Steel recently hired a contractor and plans to level the 138-acre plant by mid-2013.

The characterization plan includes details of materials found at the site, based on sampling soil, sediment and surface and ground water.

The state can approve the plan or send it back to the company for revision, Hatton said. Once it is approved the company develops and submits an action plan.

The action plan outlines what the company intends to do with the materials, such as contaminated soil, at the site. Alternatives include removing it to an approved landfill, or managing it in place.

For instance, soil could be removed or capped with a parking lot. The action plan could be a combination of the alternatives.

AK Steel will have to decide whether to clean the site to industrial or residential standards.

The industrial standards threshold would require the company to include a restriction in the deed to prevent it being used for residential purposes. The standard requires removing or covering contaminants and keeping them maintained.

The higher residential standard requires a more stringent cleanup. Both standards require assurances of protection to human health and the environment.

The company’s choice would depend on its plans for the land, which AK Steel has not yet revealed. “While it is premature to discuss any future plans for the site, AK Steel recognizes that the property is in a prime location for future economic benefit to the community,” Racey said in his email.

Other coke plant sites, notably one in New Boston, have been redeveloped as commercial and retail centers.

Demolition debris falls under solid waste regulations and if disposed of would have to be taken to a permitted landfill. The company would have the option of recycling materials as well. If material for recycling had contaminants, the contaminants would have to be removed.

The company expects most materials from the demolition of buildings on the site will be scrap metal and building debris, which will be recycled or disposed of at facilities that specialize in industrial waste, according to Racey.

AK closed the plant when it decided it was no longer cost competitive because of increased maintenance and environmental regulations.

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