July 30, 2014 10:37:46 AM
The Mississippi Commission of Environmental Quality has fined Columbus steel mill Severstal $135,000 because the company's pollution control monitors didn't function properly after the plant expanded in June 2011.
Chris Wells, an attorney for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, says Severstal agreed to install a continuous emissions monitoring system when it made a $550 million expansion at the plant, which is located on 1,400 acres near Airport Road in Lowndes County. The expansion added a second steel-melting furnace. Wells says Severstal later told regulators its system couldn't work inside its emissions-handling system before pollutants were filtered. The plant lacks traditional smokestacks, making monitoring challenging beyond filters.
Wells says Severstal has been conducting traditional emissions tests during the dispute. Some tests have showed Severstal exceeding emission limits.
Severstal has submitted a report outlining its plans to fix the problems by a state-ordered deadline of Dec. 31.
The fine, which was ordered in May, has been paid, according to Robbie Wilbur, communications director with the state DEQ. Wilbur said the money goes toward the state's Pollution Emergency Fund.
Earlier this month, Steel Dynamics Inc., an Indiana-based steel producer and metal recycler, announced it has agreed to purchase the steel plant from Severstal. Steel Dynamics said it will pay the Russia-based company approximately $1.6 billion for the facility. The sale is expected to be finalized by the end of 2014, according to a statement released by Steel Dynamics.
The plant employs roughly 650 people.
Neither Steel Dynamics or Severstal responded Tuesday to messages seeking comment regarding the DEQ fine.
Dispatch news editor William Browning contributed to this report.
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