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Indiana residents urged to comment on US Steel settlement

May 22, 2018

Environmental groups are urging northwest Indiana residents to comment on a proposed federal settlement over a U.S. Steel plant’s discharging of a hazardous chemical that entered a Lake Michigan tributary in Portage.

The public comment period on the proposed settlement ends June 6, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported. Save the Dunes and the Ogden Dunes Environmental Advisory Board will host a public meeting Wednesday about the settlement.

“This is the only chance to influence this deal, which could affect water quality for the community and the national park for years to come,” said Colin Deverell, Midwest program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.

That settlement calls for U.S. Steel to pay nearly $900,000 in fines and penalties for spills at its Midwest Plant in Portage, conduct daily tests for hexavalent chromium, create a preventive maintenance program and upgrade pollution monitoring.

The proposal doesn’t go far enough, Deverell said. The company should release documentation to show the steps that have already been taken to prevent more spills, he said.

“The public cannot make informed comments about what more is needed without knowing what U.S. Steel is doing and how they are collecting and reporting their progress to avoid future spills,” Deverell said.

The Surfrider Foundation and the city of Chicago have both criticized the settlement for being unfair and inadequate. Both groups sued U.S. Steel in January but have put the lawsuits on hold.

The proposal is vague about U.S. Steel’s commitments and allows the steelmaker to make many decisions in future proposals, said Surfrider attorney Rob Weinstock.

One spill in April 2017 resulted in almost 300 pounds of hexavalent chromium dumped into the Burns Waterway, which flows into Lake Michigan. The plant’s hexavalent chromium discharge is limited to about half a pound a day.

The toxic heavy metal might be carcinogenic if ingested, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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