Monday, 24 April, 2017

US Steel Faces Wastewater Calamity, Dumps Carcinogens into Waterway

U.S. Steel's Gary Works on the Lake Michigan shore in Lake County is the largest steel mill in North America. Center for Land Use Interpretation U.S. Steel's Gary Works on the Lake Michigan shore in Lake County is the largest steel mill in North America. Center for Land Use Interpretation
Sammy Stanley | 17 April, 2017, 00:57

Today's losses for U.S. Steel (X -9.7%) are exacerbated by concerns related to a potentially hazardous leak from one of its facilities in IN into a Lake Michigan tributary.

That wastewater eventually flowed into the Burns Waterway, a lake tributary, at a point about 100 yards from Lake Michigan, the EPA said.

EPA spokeswoman Rachel Bassler says sampling found no sign that hexavalent chromium entered Lake Michigan.

U.S. Steel has halted all production processes at the Portage facility as it works with the EPA, state and local officials to respond to the spill, including repairing the damaged pipe and removing the hexavalent chromium.

The National Park Service has closed a third beach along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore following a nearby toxic wastewater spill. Three beaches at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and one in adjacent Ogden Dunes have been closed as a precaution, the AP said.

"Overnight and throughout the morning, U. S. Steel continued extensive testing on the repairs made at our Midwest Plant and continues to monitor environmental compliance with all of our systems". The agency has a national drinking water standard for total chromium of 100 parts per billion, including trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium.

Water Department Superintendent Randy Russell said he was still awaiting test results but doesn't expect any tainted samples because the chemical - soluable in water - dissipates quickly.

A second sample taken nearby contained 1.6 parts per billion of hexavalent chromium, but 10 other samples taken in the same general area contained levels no higher than 0.21 parts per billion, agency data showed.

As of late Wednesday, no hexavalent chromium had been detected in the waters of Lake Michigan, although levels of the carcinogenic chemical remained elevated in Burns Waterway.

The Environmental Protection Agency says water sampling in Lake Michigan and a tributary shows no significant discharge of a potentially carcinogenic chemical from a U.S. Steel Corp. wastewater spill in northern Indiana. It's also found in ash from coal-fired power plants. "Those numbers are calculated by an ingestion model", he said, to account for events such as a person accidentally drinking surface water while swimming. The chemical in question is called hexavalent chromium, which is used to coat steel to prevent rusting.

The spilled wastewater came from a process used to treat steel after it has been electroplated, the steelmaker said in a statement. "Recent sampling has indicated we are in compliance with our water permit limits", the company said.

The National Park Service says it will reopen all beaches once independent testing and monitoring has found the hazardous risk is no longer present.

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