Chesterton Tribune



Chicago Tribune: Regulators unsure where ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor pollution goes

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BURNS HARBOR, Ind. (AP) - Environmental regulators arenít sure where a northwestern Indiana steel millís emissions end up after the pollution is released by the sprawling mill, which is a major source of industrial lead and benzene emissions, a newspaper has found.

The Chicago Tribune analyzed the Toxics Release Inventory, an industrial self-reporting archive maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and found that ArcelorMittalís Burns Harbor steel mill emitted nearly 18,000 pounds of lead and 173,000 pounds of benzene in 2016. Over the last decade, airborne emissions of both toxic substances have sharply increased from the mill, even as airborne levels of those substances dropped nationwide, the newspaper reported.

And more could be on the way if Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal--the worldís largest steel-maker--ramps up U.S. production in response to President Donald Trumpís controversial tariff on imported steel.

Even tiny amounts of lead, a toxic heavy metal, can damage the brains of young children and trigger learning disabilities, aggression and criminal behavior later in life if itís ingested or inhaled. Benzene is a volatile chemical known to cause leukemia.

On days when lead pollution is monitored just west of the steel mill, those levels are well below federal standards.

The mill complex is along Lake Michigan and about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Chicago. The Burns Harbor mill is a big polluter because it produces steel from scratch, a process that generally involves baking coal into high-carbon coke and processing iron ore for the plantís blast furnaces.

The EPAís regional office in Chicago said it started an analysis this summer to determine where the millís lead pollution ends up. About 38,000 people live within 5 miles of the steel mill.

A state analysis of local wind patterns suggest that the lead released by the mill complex could be blowing north and west toward Chicago or south toward Chesterton.

ďIt definitely requires some work to solve a mystery like this,Ē said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a senior scientist at the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council who researches air pollution. ďBut there are plenty of scientific tools available to the EPA to figure this out if they want to use them.Ē

ArcelorMittal said data from its monitoring station shows that there isnít any evidence that the millís lead emissions exceed regulatory standards or poses a threat to public health. The station samples airborne lead every six days near the mill.

ArcelorMittal spokesman Bill Steers said the company has invested millions of dollars in pollution-control equipment and is continuing to look for ways to reduce emissions.


Posted 8/7/2018




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