Pellet Terminal Sparks Debate

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Renita Jablonski: Councilmembers Joe Cimperman and Matt Zone arranged for the hearing - it was because several of their west side constituents had raised concerns about the terminal's proposed arrival in Cleveland, but they didn't know how many more felt the same. In fact, it wasn't before long that council's committee room, with a capacity of 150 people wouldn't cut it. Residents from neighborhoods like Ohio City and Edgewater, as well as boaters from all over northeast Ohio kept streaming into City Hall.

We're going to have to ask everyone to kindly go into the council chambers because we probably expect more people are going to be coming.

They came looking for answers.

Cleveland Boater: My main question is why Cleveland as opposed to Conneaut, Fairport, or Ashtabula as alternatives to this location?

RJ: Port Authority Gary Feilor says it's simply not practical to store the pellets anywhere else.

Gary Feilor: This is the only deep water facility in Cleveland that can handle thousand-foot vessels. There are other docks but they're on the east side of the river and they don't, they have not been ore docks for 90 years. This has been an ore-transfer facility for 90 years.

RJ: Feilor added that putting the terminal on International Steel Group property is not possible because the one thousand foot ships that carry iron ore would be unable to navigate up the Cuyahoga River to the ISG site. John Mang is vice president of operations for ISG. He says since iron ore and its transportation make up more than 20% of the company's operating costs, using Cleveland Bulk Terminal would make ISG more economical, ultimately protecting more than 1,200 local steel jobs.

John Mang: The steel industry is a high cost and an intensely competitive business. Reducing our costs to improve our competitiveness will help insure that our business will be a sucess, insure our ability to be a good employer and a good citizen of the city of Cleveland.

RJ: The biggest worry among residents is the potential for environmental hazards like dust, odor, and water pollution.

Cleveland Resident: How do you guarantee us that that stuff isn't going into the water, onto my house, onto my car? Because I live down there. I just held four pellets in my hand, rubbed them liked this, I mean, I'm willing to take them right now under a water faucet. But where is that stuff going?

RJ: Representatives from Cleveland Cliffs, the company that makes the actual iron ore pellets, passed around a container full of them. They look like BB gun bullets. Mike Siragusa is with Oglebay Norton Marine Services. Oglebay Norton operates Cleveland Bulk Terminal. Saragosa says the only dust complaints the company ever received was when LTV was still in operation, using lower quality pellets.

Mike Siragusa: LTV switched in the summer of 2001 to Cleveland Cliffs pellets. Again, new techology. State of the art technology, and you can't even compare these new pellets versus the pellets that LTV used to utilize and bring into Lorain and Cleveland. Since that switch to these new pellets, there have been no dust complaints.

RJ: Siragusa also says there's never been a problem with water run-off. Ohio EPA representative Bob Princick was unable to provide residents with any studies or data relating to the questions of air quality or runoff. Princick says that's partly due to short notice of the meeting, and also because Oglebay Norton has not yet applied for a permit to operate the old LTV pellet terminal in Cleveland.

Bob Princick: I don't think anyone's going to stand here and tell you that that facility's been operating for 90 years, I don't think there's ever been a day where there hasn't been some amount of dust that has to leave when you have that large of an amount of material. However, as industry gets better with what they do, and as environmental engineering gets better with what we do, that's mitigated to the point where it's only occasionally a problem.

RJ: But Joseph Gillick who lives a half-mile away from Cleveland Bulk Terminal says he's still not convinced, and wants answers to other questions:

Joseph Gillick: The stirring up of the lake bed, that's an important question. How is the lake bed going to be affected by these very heavy, deep, deep floating boats? The shipment of the ore is going to disturb the lake sediment, the bed sediments.

RJ: Gillick says he is glad that the people's voice is finally being heard. Plans to move the iron ore pellet facility from Lorain to the port of Cleveland were announced in May, shortly after voters passed the port authority levy. Money from the levy would cover the relocation costs but throughout the meeting, port authority leaders stressed that it was not a done deal and refused to speculate on when the board would make it's final decision. Meanwhile, Councilmen Matt Zone and Joe Cimperman say they want to hold more open forums about the issue and hope to reach a balance that promotes successful industry for Cleveland while giving residents the guarantee of fresh air - and clear water. In Cleveland, Renita Jablonski, 90.3 WCPN News.

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