Chesterton Tribune

Updated: IDEM grants permit for ArcelorMittal landfill

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NOTICE OF DECISION Indiana Department of Environmental Management


UPDATED: IDEM OKs landfill permit for ArcelorMittal plant here

BURNS HARBOR, Ind. (AP) — Indiana regulators have issued a landfill permit allowing ArcelorMittal to dispose of more than 2 million tons of steel-making waste at the company’s sprawling complex along Lake Michigan.

The state announced its decision in public notices received Tuesday, one year after ArcelorMittal applied for a permit to build and operate a restricted-waste landfill.

The Luxembourg-based steel company said in a statement that the landfill at its Burns Harbor site would be used primarily to store a type of sludge produced by the mill’s manufacturing processes.

“We look forward to beginning landfill construction activities in the near future,” the company’s statement said.

Valparaiso lawyer Kim Ferraro of the Legal Environmental Aid Foundation of Indiana said the permit answers some of the questions she and other activists have been asking for more than a year about the proposed landfill.

But she said the document fails to address what steps, if any, ArcelorMittal must take to prevent wastes stored outdoors a few hundred feet from Lake Michigan from entering the lake until it is moved to the landfill.

“That’s been one of my concerns all along,” Ferraro said Wednesday. “It’s going to take several years still to put all of that waste into the landfill, so what are they going to do to address the open dumped waste that’s still sitting there?”

The permit issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management allows ArcelorMittal to build a landfill at its Burns Harbor site, which spans five square miles some 10 miles east of Gary.

In the landfill’s initial phases, the company will dispose of 1.5 million to 1.8 million tons of stockpiled sludge from secondary wastewater treatment plants and 700,000 tons of blast furnace filter cake waste.

ArcelorMittal also expects to dispose of 200,000 tons of process waste, generated annually, in landfills.

Ferraro said the permit clarifies for the first time that the 75-acre landfill will accept wastes that had been open dumped, or stored outdoors, at the site for more than six months in violation of Indiana law.

Those wastes are stored in a large pile near Lake Michigan that the Post-Tribune of Merrillville has reported ArcelorMittal representatives call “Easterly’s Pile” after Tom Easterly, the state Department of Environmental Management commissioner.

Easterly was the top environmental manager at Bethlehem Steel Corp., from 1994 to 2000. Mittal Steel acquired Bethlehem Steel’s parent company in 2005 and merged with Arcelor to become ArcelorMittal the following year. Easterly became IDEM commissioner in January 2005.

Ferraro and other critics have urged IDEM to sample and test the waste in “Easterly’s Pile” to see how toxic it is, rather than relying on test results Bethlehem Steel submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1999.

Under the permit announced Tuesday, ArcelorMittal won’t be required to weigh the waste it places in landfills, but will be required to submit quarterly estimates of how much waste is disposed of.

State inspections of some of the plant’s waste piles have found that some of that waste has been stored outdoors for more than six months in violation of Indiana law. An April report by IDEM found that one pile of waste had been stored outside for at least five years.

That inspection report said IDEM wasn’t taking enforcement action against ArcelorMittal for open dumping because the company has periodically recycled some waste and had applied for a landfill permit to dispose of the waste.

Updated 7/8/2010

Posted 7/7/2010