BURNS HARBOR, Ind. (AP) — In an Aug. 10 story and an
Aug. 14 corrective about a settlement over waste at a Burns Harbor, Ind.,
steel mill, The Associated Press erroneously reported certain information.
The story incorrectly listed the parties involved in a September order
outlining terms for removing 3 million tons of waste at the site and a
settlement reached in July. The parties involved in the September order
were ArcelorMittal and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
The corrective incorrectly stated that IDEM ordered ArcelorMittal to build
a landfill to dispose of the waste. Agency spokesman Barry Sneed says IDEM
ordered ArcelorMittal to properly dispose of the waste but that the
decision to build a landfill was made by the mill owner.
A corrected version of the story is below:
BURNS HARBOR, Ind. (AP) — A settlement that requires
one of the nation's largest steel mills to test soil for toxins after
cleaning up more than 3 million tons of waste is being hailed as a victory
by environmentalists, but they say the two-year fight that led to the deal
illustrates deep problems within Indiana's environmental agency.
State environmental regulators, steel mill owner
ArcelorMittal and an environmental group reached a settlement in late July
that will require the mill to test the soil after removing slag and other
waste that piled up in lakeside heaps over two decades along Lake
Many environmentalists say the waste piles are a
glaring example of how Indiana's elected leaders view environmental
regulations as obstacles to business.
They criticize the Indiana Department of
Environmental Management's enforcement wing and a "streamlined" permitting
process they say allows polluters to avoid more stringent reviews.
They've also questioned the appointments of key
agency officials. Thomas Easterly, who was appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels
to lead IDEM in 2005, previously worked for Bethlehem Steel,
ArcelorMittal's previous owners. A former coal industry lobbyist and
attorney was appointed in 2009 to oversee IDEM's legal department.
Easterly and Daniels "lobotomized that agency," said
Larry Davis, an ArcelorMittal electrical worker who has worked at the
Burns Harbor plant for 34 years. He is a former member of a number of
environmental groups and has tried to push the plant to find ways to
recycle its waste, rather than dump it.
Valparaiso attorney Kim Ferraro, who represents the
Hoosier Environmental Council and Save the Dunes, said much of the
ArcelorMittal waste was dumped during Easterly's tenure — some of it
"To have the person in charge of a state agency
regulating industry with that kind of history -- that should raise a cause
for concern," she told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/OoYTT7
IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock said the dump site
dates from the 1980s, well before Easterly joined Bethlehem Steel in 1994.
She said that under Easterly's watch, IDEM has
gotten most Indiana communities to develop long-term plans to address
sewage overflows into waterways and that, for the first time, every
Indiana county is meeting U.S. Clean Air Act standards.
"Our commissioner is committed to environmental
protection," Hartsock said.
Hartsock said the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency performed tests on the piles as recently as 2009 and found them to
Ferraro bristled at that, saying IDEM's own
documents show the piles of waste along Lake Michigan contain lead,
arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals.
"To say that arsenic is not toxic is ludicrous," she
Under the settlement, the company also must test the
soil once the remaining 1.8 million pounds of sludge is removed and make
sure no toxins remain.
ArcelorMittal officials told The Star they are
"pleased to have come to an agreement with the parties on material
storage" at the Burns Harbor plant.
Ferraro contends it takes complaints from the public
to get polluters to clean up their act, an assertion IDEM disputes.
"I feel like I'm doing IDEM's job sometimes,"
IDEM officials say they inspected the site in
February 2008, two years before the environmental groups filed suit, and
determined the mill owner needed to find a different way to manage the
waste. ArcelorMittal constructed a landfill for the material.
Hartsock, the IDEM spokeswoman, said the process
"We respond to complaints," Hartsock said. "It's a
normal part of our day. We invite people to report concerns and invite
things to come to our attention."