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Canton health officials investigate dirty coating on homes near Republic Steel

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CANTON, Ohio - The Canton City Health Department is investigating complaints that Republic Steel is emitting particulates that are covering nearby homes and cars in a film of dust.

The dirty coating is not only an eyesore, some neighbors living in the Georgeview Estates neighborhood said they’re worried it could indicate a health hazard in the air. Those concerns were heightened after they learned lead is used in the plant.

“I was like, ‘Oh, no. I just bought this house. Am I going to be stuck? Now that people heard about it, will I be able to sell the home?’ I'm scared of that,” said Tam Church, who purchased his home on Wood Owl Street Northeast about a year ago.

The residue is so severe that power washing hasn’t been able to remove it at one home. Other neighbors have had to install new siding on their homes. They said they want to know what’s in the particulates coming from the plant.

“For me, personally, it has gone past concerns, I want answers. I think there's a lot of us here who do,” said Georgeview Estates Neighborhood Association President Brenda Baylor. “It's very frustrating because a lot of people end up having to power wash their homes every year. People have to clean their cars constantly.”

Republic Steel maintains that it is in compliance with emissions standards.

The Canton City Health Department launched an investigation earlier this month after several neighbors voiced concern at a Canton City Council meeting.

Health Commissioner Jim Adams said department officials have been examining visible emissions and plant records, as well as testing the residue to determine its contents and source. It is planning on doing a full compliance inspection for the permit related to the lead process, Adams said.

The investigation is expected to be completed by next week.

“There's no indication at all that any of the particulates or any of the releases contain lead,” Adams said. “As far as we can tell from past inspections, they are in compliance with all lead parts of their permit.”

Still, he recommended all parents have their children tested for lead exposure, which typically comes from lead paint in homes. Church said he and his wife have discussed having their children tested as a precaution.

“That scares me,” Church said.

Adams said Republic Steel is installing a new air monitor for lead in June, as required by the Ohio EPA last year.

Republic Steel maintains that despite the residue on nearby homes, it is in compliance with environmental regulations.

“Republic Steel has produced leaded steel at our Canton, OH plant since 1968, and spends millions of dollars each year to maintain its equipment to ensure compliance with all applicable EPA regulations,” Republic Steel Vice President Ted Thielens said in a statement provided to FOX 8. “We have complied with, and will continue to comply with, those regulations.”

If no violations are found, Adams said the company will be able to determine what resources, if any, it will use toward resolving the residue concerns.

The Canton City Health Department is hosting a meeting focused on this issue for concerned neighbors at Canton City Council Chambers on April 4 at 6 p.m.

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