The Severstal steel plant at Sparrows Point has been cited for multiple air pollution violations over the past year, and an investigation is under way of a furnace fire Sept. 29 at the Baltimore County facility, a state spokesman said Friday.

The Department of the Environment notified the Michigan-based steel company Sept. 24 that it faces unspecified civil penalties for emitting excessive amounts of potentially harmful chemicals from one of the plant's operations in September and October of 2008, and again on June 25 of this year.

Plant operators also failed repeatedly from November 2008 to January of this year to run a pollution scrubber properly on another unit, the state contends. Finally, plant operators failed to take required steps to limit harmful particle pollution May 13.

State regulators are in talks with company officials to resolve the issues, said MDE spokesman Jay Apperson. He would not disclose what remedies the state is seeking. Meanwhile, Apperson said state officials are investigating a malfunction of a blast furnace that briefly released harmful particles and gases into the air. Severstal spokeswoman Bette Kovach said the company was cooperating with the state in its investigation of the furnace incident, and confirmed that talks continue on the alleged violations.

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