US Steel leaks chemical into Lake Michigan tributary

  • US Steel leaks chemical into Lake Michigan tributary

US Steel leaks chemical into Lake Michigan tributary

U.S. Steel on Friday announced plans to restart operations that same day, as government agencies continue "robust water and soil sampling" after the company's Midwest facility spilled an undetermined amount of hexavalent chromium into the Burns Waterway.

The EPA so far sees no sign that the compound actually has reached Lake Michigan, but the National Park Service has closed two local beachfront areas. Steel must immediately explain how they allowed a risky chemical into a Lake Michigan tributary where it could harm millions of people in IN and IL, and what they are doing to ensure this never happens again.

Chicago conducted its own sampling this week near its water intake 1 mile from the spill site and detected a hexavalent chromium level of 2 parts per billion, EPA said.

The utility said Wednesday that preliminary water testing by an independent laboratory under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's oversight has detected no hexavalent chromium in the water treated and stored by its plant.

Maguire said the EPA and U.S. Steel are still working to determine how much wastewater was discharged. But on Tuesday "an expansion joint in the rinse-water pipe failed and resulted in the water being released to a different wastewater treatment plant and ultimately (to) Burns Waterway through an outfall".

The EPA expects to start receiving results Friday from about 200 water samples it has collected following the Tuesday spill, spokeswoman Rachel Bassler said.

That wastewater eventually flowed into Burns Waterway at a point about 100 yards from Lake Michigan.

Three beaches in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, as well as one in Ogden Dunes and an intake for Indiana American Water, will remain closed for the time being, officials said.

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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.

U.S. Steel says it's idled all production processes at the facility. The toxic heavy metal is used in a variety of industrial processes, including steelmaking and corrosion prevention, and as a pigment in dyes, paints and inks.

The EPA says testing has detected none of that chemical, hexavalent chromium, in Lake Michigan. The chemical in question is called hexavalent chromium, which is used to coat steel to prevent rusting. The company settled with the US Department of Justice, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the states of IN and IL. "Those numbers are calculated by an ingestion model", he said, to account for events such as a person accidentally drinking surface water while swimming.