DEARBORN, Mich.—On March 3, NELC announced that it had served AK Steel, one of Michigan’s most notorious polluters, with a detailed Notice of Violation of the federal Clean Air Act. The notice, which NELC attorneys filed in partnership with attorneys from the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Sierra Club and Environment Michigan, is a statutory pre- requisite to the filing of a lawsuit to address thousands of pollution exceedances from AK Steel’s Dearborn, Michigan, facility.
Located just outside of Detroit, Dearborn is home to a large immigrant population, with one of the highest concentrations of Arab Americans in the United States. One hundred and fifty thousand people live within three miles of AK Steel Dearborn Works, which has long been out of compliance with emission limits for lead, manganese, and small particulate matter. The facility is located within two miles of a residential mosque and directly across the railroad yard from the local elementary and middle schools.
Children learn and play in the shadows of this facility, yet they are particularly susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of the lead and manganese it pumps into the air above them. Teachers report wiping soot from the plant off of the tables, windowsills, and walls inside their class- rooms, and a middle school coach has to clean particulate matter off his shoes after spending an afternoon on the athletic field. In surrounding neighborhoods, asthma, which is associated with particulate matter exposure, is a frequent occurrence, as are other air-related health issues.
Local activists have been calling on AK Steel to take stronger action to protect the Dearborn community for years. However, despite receiving repeated violation notices—sometimes as many as four per month—the steel plant has made few improvements. NELC’s legal action aims to remedy the situation and compel AK Steel to become the “community partner” it has claimed to be in promotional materials.
“Students deserve to learn in environments free from heavy pollution,” says Eman Ahmen, a local educator. “We just want AK Steel to be a good neighbor. The public health of local students, teachers, and staff depend on it.”