PORTAGE, Ind. (AP)
- A proposed federal settlement inadequately punishes U.S. Steel for
chemical spills into Lake Michigan, according to Chicago officials and a
The deal calls for
U.S. Steel to pay nearly $900,000 in fines and penalties for spills at the
Midwest Plant in Portage, Indiana, test for hexavalent chromium daily,
create a preventative maintenance program and upgrade pollution monitoring.
The Chicago Law
Department and the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation said in a letter to the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday that they’ll oppose the deal
in federal court if the EPA and the Department of Justice don’t make
“Lake Michigan is
our region’s most precious resource, and we are determined to change this
situation permanently and positively and to prevent such violations from
recurring,” the letter said.
The groups want
environmental improvement projects for communities near the Portage plant,
an independent study of potential long-term damage caused by the spills and
an automated early warning system to detect future spills.
The University of
Chicago’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic discovered last year that the
manufacturing and finishing plant had violated chromium limits in its
federal water pollution permit at least four times since 2013. The plant’s
chromium discharges are limited to 30 pounds a day, while hexavalent
chromium is limited to about half a pound a day.
One violation was
during an April 2017 spill that dumped almost 300 pounds of hexavalent
chromium into the Burns Waterway, which feeds into Lake Michigan. Another
violation occurred when the plant discharged almost 57 pounds of chromium
into the waterway in October.
The toxic heavy
metal might be carcinogenic if ingested, according to the EPA.