The waiting game continues for the air pollutant court case against ArcelorMittal Dofasco.

The local steel company was slapped with 13 charges from the Ministry of the Environment for breaking air emission laws 10 months ago. The violations occurred last year.

At a court hearing Tuesday morning, a pre-trial date of March 27, 2014 was set, leaving local environmental groups waiting another three months to see action.

“These are violations from 2012,” said Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton. “We’re still seeing issues daily.”

The 13 charges relate to visible thickness (opacity) of the emissions that emanated from the company's smokestacks between April and August 2012.

This case has been plagued with delays. The MOE was scheduled to disclose all evidence in the Dofasco case at a June 4 court date, but it wasn’t ready. On that date, the adjudicator gave the provincial agency until Aug. 9 to hand over the documents to the defence team, but CBC News learned the ministry didn’t submit their documents until two weeks later, on Aug. 22.

Neighbours concerned

Lukasik said the delays speaks to the underlying need for a better and faster process to penalize air emission offenders. Environment Hamilton has been pushing the provincial government to make changes, she said.

Meanwhile, Lukasik visits the area regularly. Based on what she has seen coming form the smokestacks, she believes more violations have happened since the MOE charges were laid.

Residents who live close to the Dofasco plant say their east-end neighbourhood is like living in “hell.”

“Dante’s hell, Dante’s inferno,” said Ron Romhany. “Black clouds, flames shooting out lighting up the sky…it’s horrible.”

That’s the picture he said he sees from his window every day. Romhany has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years and attended Tuesday’s hearing.  

Romhany is not the only one concerned.

“I moved because I got [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)] living there,” said Lorna Moreau, a former McAnulty Boulevard. “I’m a non-smoker. My house is smoke-free and I got COPD. It’s either pollution or smoking.”

'Things have changed since ArcelorMittal took over,' former neighbour says

Moreau said she has difficulty visiting the neighbourhood she moved from earlier this year because of her health condition.  

“To me, it's appalling,” she said. “In the last five or six years, things have changed since ArcelorMittal took over.”

Moreau lists off over a dozen former neighbours who have recently passed away.

“They need to listen because the health costs and the health impacts of people living in Hamilton are great,” she said. “It needs to be addressed…It’s too little too late.”

The Ministry of the Environment told CBC Hamilton in an email that March 2014 is the first available date. ArcelorMittal Dofasco spokesperson Marie Verdun wouldn't comment on the case, citing the court challenge.

The company is working on a long-term coke-making strategy for Hamilton, she said. That includes closing a coke oven here to coincide with "a new facility we will bring on stream in Monessen, Pennsylvania.

The company also has several initiatives to reduce environmental impacts from its operations, she said. 

"We also continue to develop long term plans to continually improve our performance, including a compliance plan with the Ministry of Environment with regards to our coke-making operations."