Iron spill at Lake Michigan steel mill not dangerous, officials say
PORTAGE, IN – Environmental officials say high iron levels in a steel mill sewage spill into a Lake Michigan waterway do not pose a risk to the public.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) said surface water testing near the wastewater outlet at the US Steel Midwest plant, which released a rust-colored landfill over the weekend. end. âDo not indicate any risk to the health of people who may come into direct contact with water. “
An orange plume in the Burns Waterway was first spotted on Sunday, September 26, and caused beach closures this week in Indiana Dunes National Park and other public shores of Lake Michigan around the facility of Portage, Indiana.
Indiana American Water also shut down the water intake at its Ogden Dunes drinking water treatment plant and kept it offline this week pending internal test results.
The beaches in Indiana have since reopened.
US Steel spokeswoman Amanda Malkowski said on Monday that the discoloration of the waterways was due to high levels of iron, which regulators confirmed on Wednesday.
Malkowski said the plant experienced a “disrupted condition” at its sewage treatment facility. It has since reopened the factory. US Steel did not specify the cause of the malfunction.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency testing indicated the release was within the limits of the company’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Indiana officials said investigation was continuing into the cause of the sewage spill. US Steel is licensed to discharge treated wastewater into the lake with low levels of pollutants.
“Preliminary results from the EPA sample show that the reddish-orange releases from the US Steel Midwest plant outfall were caused by high levels of iron,” IDEM reported on Wednesday, September 29.
âPreliminary results from the EPA sample also currently indicate that the release was below the numerical effluent discharge limits contained in US Steel’s NPDES permit. The results of surface water samples taken near the US Steel outfall do not indicate any health risk to people who may come in direct contact with the water along the Portage River Parkway. Federal and state agencies continue to investigate the matter to determine the cause of the release and possible Clean Water Act compliance issues, as well as the environmental impacts and other actions needed to ensure future compliance. “
The sewage spill comes weeks after a federal judge approved a revised settlement between the state of Indiana and US Steel after the Portage plant dumped harmful hexavalent chromium in the same waterway in 2017. US Steel agreed to pay a civil fine of $ 601,242 and over $ 625,000 to reimburse state and federal agencies for costs associated with their response after the plant dumped 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of chromium hexavalent.
Gabriel Filippelli, professor of earth sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, told The Associated Press this week that “in general, iron itself is just a nuisance rather than a contaminant that requires significant intervention â.
Nonetheless, Filippelli asked if the landfill also contained toxic heavy metals such as mercury or lead, or other contaminants. “Who knows what else he was carrying? Usually when you find iron you find other nasty stuff, âhe said.
Detailed test results have not been released by the company or government officials.
On Monday, IDEM said it had not seen any impact on local wildlife.
Gina Ramirez, chair of the board of directors of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, told the Northwest Indiana Times that the incident further erodes public confidence in the industries that occupy a significant portion of the South Coast. -Western Lake Michigan.
âIt is incredibly concerning to hear about this latest spill that occurred so close to our community on the southeast side of Chicago and how it affected our region’s largest drinking water resource in Lake Michigan. The fact that this was not an isolated incident for this company reinforces the mistrust of how these types of industrial facilities can coexist with our communities as well as with the natural areas that surround them, âa Ramirez said.
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