ArcelorMittal Dofasco is facing 13 environmental charges related to emissions from its smokestacks.

The company faces charges for exceeding visible emissions (opacity) levels set by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and will appear in court next month.

The charges are in relation to the company's coke-making operations between April and August 2012, said Jennifer Hall, spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment's Hamilton regional office.

Both parties will appear in Hamilton court on April 2.

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ArcelorMittal Dofasco says it has worked hard to improve its emissions. (Lynda Lukasik/Environment Hamilton)

The charges are a victory of Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton. Lukasik said she has been documenting and photographing the emissions for months, and working with concerned residents nearby.

"I'm not aware of an instance where there were 13 charges on opacity violations all moving forward at once," Lukasik said.

"We're really thrilled to see that the ministry is taking this very seriously, and that their abatement folks have been watching and documenting. We're also that much more pleased to see it's gotten through to the court level."

Opacity is related to the thickness of the emissions and how much light can pass through them, Hall said.

"There are percentages of light obstruction we look for."

Community members often tip off the ministry about potential opacity violations, Hall said. Ministry staff also work with the local steel industry.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco confirmed in an emailed statement Wednesday that it's facing charges for "visible air emission events in 2012."

"Given that the matter is now formally before the courts, it would not be appropriate for the company to comment on the charges at this time," said the email from spokesperson Marie Verdun.

The company has undertaken a number of initiatives to reduce the environmental impacts of its operations, she said.

In 2012, it finished installing continuous opacity monitors on its coke plant stacks and emission observation cameras.

Michael Bowyer, a pastor at nearby Compass Point Bible Church, is not surprised by the charges.

Bowyer lived in the neighbourhood until about 10 years ago, when he had breathing problems he believes were exacerbated by the industrial park.

The charges "are acknowledgement of what the neighbours have been complaining about," he said. 

Lorna Moreau has been a vocal critic of the company's emissions. She lived on nearby McAnulty Boulevard and moved in February for health reasons. She'll attend the court appearance too.

"I hope I get a front-row seat," she said.