So Georgetown neighbors took the mill to court, with the case growing into a class-action lawsuit covering those who lived within a few miles of the steel mill. At one point, the plaintiffs sought millions of dollars in at least three civil cases, civil filings show.
The federal government has declared goethite a hazardous substance for workers exposed to large quantities each day. It's generally not toxic like arsenic and it doesn't cause cancer like benzene, two pollutants that are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In 1999, just as the mill's lawyers asked a local judge to force the plaintiffs to turn over more documents, Romney announced he was leaving Bain to organize the Salt Lake City Olympics. Romney's federal presidential financial disclosures report that he had no active role in Bain after 1999. Several Romney associates recently told the AP that Romney made no managerial decisions after that date, but they also said he kept his formal CEO position and continued to meet with Bain partners. And an AP analysis of regulatory documents between 1999 and 2001 also showed Romney kept up an active role in overseeing Bain-related investments.
Romney stood to benefit financially from his company's investments. And his departure from Bain also came as the balance sheets at GS Industries began to look bleak. Despite Bain's reputation for turning around troubled companies like Staples and Domino's Pizza, the Georgetown plant was in trouble.
In February 2001, the company filed for bankruptcy protection with more than $500 million in debt. Romney has blamed cheap steel from China for the plant's demise, telling Fox News in December that he remembered a few dozen steel mills also foundered.
But as soon as the bankruptcy documents were filed, company lawyers told the Georgetown neighbors that the settlement was on hold. To see any money, they'd have to get in line behind everyone else — including Bain, with its majority ownership share. The steel mill offered to settle the case for $870,000.
Bain, for its part, reported $33.9 million in total valuation of GS Industries, according to a 2004 prospectus by Deutsche Bank. By September 2003, as GS Industries was emerging from bankruptcy and after Bain sold the company, a local judge ordered that Georgetown homeowners in the lawsuit receive their money.
After attorney's fees, that came to about $113,000, split dozens of ways. And it certainly wasn't enough to repair the damage, some residents said.
"I had the house cleaned and pressure-washed all the time," said Paul Skoko, who was among those who sued. "Within two years, it needed to be done again. That's when I said, 'That's it. I'm not doing this anymore. It simply costs too much."
Skoko opted to let his house turn a hue of burnt orange-red.
Links to documents at http://apne.ws/NRjdLb
Contact the Washington investigative team at DCInvestigations(at)ap.org
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