apologizing and assuming unconditional responsibility for the chemical
exceedances believed responsible for a significant fish-kill last week in
the East Branch of the Little Calumet River.
Portage Mayor John
Cannon, for his part, is blasting the Indiana Department of Environmental
Management (IDEM) for waiting until Thursday of last week--three full days
after a distressed fish was first observed in the river--before notifying
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk site in Portage remains closed, although all
of the other beaches at Indiana Dunes National Park are open to the public.
Begin with a
statement released Sunday evening by ArcelorMittal: “ArcelorMittal knows
that we have a responsibility to all stakeholders to be a trusted user of
natural resources and we sincerely apologize for falling short on this
responsibility. The events of the past week at Burns Harbor have concerned
us all and we have been making every effort possible to address the
situation and return to compliance since we became aware of the issue. We
will be working hard now and in the future to restore confidence in our
ability to comply with all of our environmental requirements and restore
trust among all of our stakeholders, which we understand will take time.”
On Friday, the
company released a statement on the cause of the exceedances, which flowed
into the East Branch of the Little Cal at its confluence with a discharge
outfall immediately west of the Shadyside Mobile Home Community: the failure
of a blast-furnace recirculation system. “This isolated event resulted in
the release of wastewater containing elevated levels of ammonia and
cyanide,” ArcelorMittal said.
The Burns Harbor
facility is permitted by IDEM to discharge wastewaster containing
“low amounts of ammonia and cyanide,” the company noted, but the amounts of
those chemicals exceeded by unspecified amounts the applicable limits. “We
promptly reported these exceedances to the Indiana Department of
Environmental Management in accordance with our permit requirements,”
system has since been repaired “and normal operations have resumed,” the
ArcelorMittal enumerated its ongoing efforts “to return to compliance and
--The company has
been working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, IDEM,
the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Coast Guard
“throughout the weekend.”
--The company has
been conducting daily water sampling at two impacted wastewater outfalls as
well as daily downstream sampling every quarter mile for 2.5 miles of the
Little Cal. “As a precautionary measure and in support of stakeholder
requests, we have expanded our testing to include the lakeshore from Porter
Beach to the westernmost extent of West Beach,” ArcelorMittal said.
--“While we are
still awaiting official results from the previous day’s sampling events, we
can confirm that the most recently available data show that ammonia is now
within permitted levels and cyanide levels have been decreasing daily and
currently are below the levels experienced during the initial release,” the
company said. “Unfortunately, these are not real-time results, as there is
an inherent delay in processing daily tests by a third-party analytical lab.
However, the constituents of concern have demonstrated a pattern of daily
improvement since Thursday.”
--“We are committed
to keeping all stakeholders informed through the process,” the company
added. “We will be sharing data form sampling locations on our website as
soon as they are confirmed by the regulatory agencies.”
IDEM and Portage
IDEM released a
statement of its own on Friday, in which the agency provided a time-line of
--On Monday, Aug.
12, DNR received a citizen’s complaint of “one distressed fish.” IDEM and
DNR both responded and investigated.
--On Tuesday, Aug.
13, additional reports were received “identifying the presence of numerous
dead fish” in the Little Cal.
Aug. 14, IDEM and DNR “conducted a reconnaissance” and “observed that a
significant fish die-off had occurred.” At that time the cause was unknown,
IDEM said, but “in the course of investigating potential sources IDEM
learned that ArcelorMittal violated its daily maximum limits of
--On Thursday, Aug.
15, ArcelorMittal notified IDEM that the company had also violated the daily
maximum limit for total cyanide. “When IDEM received this information,
agency staff alerted local media, environmental organizations, and local
officials including American Indiana Water and the Mayor of Portage,” IDEM
said. “In addition, IDEM notified ArcelorMittal that they were responsible
for initiating a spill response to include in-stream monitoring and
increased monitoring of its outfalls to the Little Calumet River.”
Portage Mayor John
Cannon, however, wants to know why IDEM waited until Thursday to notify the
city, when the evidence was clear two days earlier, on Tuesday, that a
significant fish-kill had occurred at the Marquette Yacht Club and the
Sammie L. Maletta Public Marina, both in Portage. As the Associated Press
quoted Cannon on Friday, “The Mayor is calling for action to be taken.
Further, the City of Portage will be taking aggressive action with the EPA
to ensure the breakdown of communication, like this, does not occur again.”
On Friday the AP
also quoted a Lake Station resident, Janice McMullen, who was at the scene
of the fish-kill at the Marquette Yacht Club: “There are dead fish
everywhere. They’re up on the shore, under the docks. I’m saying there are
probably hundreds of fish.”
On Friday, Indiana
American Water Company spokesman Joe Loughmiller told the Chesterton
Tribune that testing at its Ogden Dunes pumping/treatment station had
revealed no impact of the exceedances on its raw water parameters.
Nevertheless, the company has reduced flow through that station and
continues to monitor.
Both Ogden Dunes
Beach and the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk site at Indiana Dunes National
Park remain closed to the public. The National Park Service, though, is
reminding residents that no other beaches in the National Park were impacted
by the exceedances and are open: West Beach, Porter, Kemil, Dunbar,
Lakeview, Central Ave., and Mt. Baldy.
NPS has also closed
the East Branch of the Little Calumet River between Ind. 149 and Ind. 249.