Chesterton Tribune



EPA Samples show no chemical in the lake; USS begins startup

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Water samples taken from both Lake Michigan and Burns Waterway on Wednesday, April 12--including from Indiana American Water Company’s intake--“do not indicate hexavalent chromium impacts in either water body,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported after deadline on Friday.

“All results were below EPA’s method detection limit of one part per billion,” EPA said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Steel Corporation (USS) began a restart of its Midwest Plant’s operations on Friday, under EPA oversight. USS took the Midwest Plant offline on Tuesday, April 11, after an equipment malfunction in its wastewater treatment facility resulted in the accidental release of an unknown amount of hexavalent chromium at an outfall in Burns Waterway.

“EPA recommended that the company delay its restart until the agency had sufficient data to show there were no lingering effects to the waterway or Lake Michigan,” EPA said. “EPA and its partner agencies--including the National Park Service--have reviewed the U.S. Steel’s operations restart plan. EPA will observe the startup process and will closely monitor the outfall discharge. If this process goes smoothly, the company plans to gradually restart its plating lines this weekend, while neighboring beaches and water intakes remain closed.”

More information about EPA’s response to the spill is online at

USS confirmed a gradual startup of the Midwest Plant in its own statement released after deadline on Friday.

“Overnight and throughout the morning, U.S.Steel continued extensive testing on the repairs made at our Midwest Plant and continues to monitor environmental compliance with all of our systems,” USS said. “Recent sampling has indicated we are in compliance with our water permit limits. We have determined all repairs are safely working as intended. We have developed a controlled and phased approach to a facility restart with extensive input from the participating government agencies.”

The startup, USS noted, was to “begin with a line-by-line restart of operations that do not use chromium in their processes” and would include water sampling from the facility “every two hours.”

“U.S.Steel and participating government agencies will also be conducting vigorous visual inspections and water quality monitoring at the outfall and in the areas surrounding the outfall,” USS said. “If elevated levels of chromium are detected, all operations will be immediately shutdown. If all non-chromium-involved lines restart successfully and sampling is acceptable, the lines that involve chromium would be restarted in the same controlled, phased, and highly monitored manner.”

“A controlled restart of operations at the Midwest Plant at this time will allow U.S.Steel and participating government agencies to conduct robust water and soil sampling while Indiana American Water’s intake remains closed and access to certain parks and beaches remains restricted,” USS added.

For its own part, the National Park Service (NPS) said that water sampling at it West Beach, Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk site, and Cowles Bog Beach “showed no detection of the chemical in the waters of all three National Lakeshore beaches.”

Results on sand samples are still pending.

“Despite this encouraging initial result, the National Park Service is working with the EPA and other agencies to develop a long-term monitoring protocol,” NPS said. “Lake currents and waves have the ability to move this hazardous material onto park beaches at a later date. Park staff is concerned with potential impacts to both beach user’s health and long-term harm to wildlife and other park resources. Periodic beach patrols are under way at the National Lakeshore looking for evidence of fish kills or other environmental damage.”

Although all three beaches remain closed, the walking trails at West Beach were re-opened over the weekend, with signs warning visitors to stay off the beach and out of the water posted at West Beach.


Posted 4/17/2017





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