Canton residents worry Republic Steel fumes harmful to their health

CANTON, OH (WOIO) - The Canton City Health Department held a public meeting Tuesday to address a Environmental Protection Agency investigation that came after people living near Republic Steel voiced concern.

For years, homeowners like Don Johnson said dust and dirt has damaged their homes and cars.

"I've tried to power wash it. I even took a scouring pad and tried to scour it off and it wouldn't come off," Johnson said.

He lives on Georgetown Road, just blocks from the plant. Johnson was one of a few dozen people who came to Canton City Council Chambers Tuesday night, looking for answers from the health department.

"I've looked down at Republic Steel and I've seen this same film on their building, so I said, well, that's got to be coming from Republic Steel onto my house," he said.

Johnson worries the reddish film could also be hurting his health.

"In Georgetown we've had quite a few deaths and that could of lead to that. If it's in the air, it's not good for us," he said.

EPA documents show multiple violations at Republic Steel, including a large fine in 2011.

"It was a $125,000 fine, which is pretty significant," said Canton City Council Majority Leader Frank Morris. "They have a history of numerous violations, so I really think we've drug our feet on this one."

Despite the violations, the EPA said the air Canton residents breathe is safe. They're currently testing the residue on some of the homes. So far, they said they haven't found traces of lead, which the plant started using in December. That doesn't mean there aren't other concerns.

"To pull traces of diesel fuel off a residential house, to me, does not sound safe," Morris said.

Morris said his constituents want answers. He hopes Canton City Council holds more public meetings in the future.

"They need to be reassured from the State of Ohio and the EPA, who issued that initial fine, that they are safe," Morris said.

The health department also mentioned they're looking at disease clusters to see if another investigation is necessary. If people have concerns about their health, including cancer concerns, they're urged to contact the health department to take part in the study.

Despite the fact Republic Steel began using lead in December, a monitoring system won't be installed until June. Lead is particularly dangerous to children, it can lead to behavior and learning problems, hyperactivity and slowed growth.

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