Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

IDEM says new US Steel permit is stricter

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PORTAGE, Ind. (AP) U.S. Steel Midwest's new draft wastewater permit for its northwestern Indiana steel mill will not increase its pollution into Lake Michigan because the permit imposes stricter limits for several pollutants, state regulators said.

Those limits mean there should be less of certain pollutants in the wastewater the Portage mill discharges into Lake Michigan and one of its tributaries, Burns Ditch, The Post-Tribune of Merrillville reported.

The company also will be required to sample for more pollutants, said Amy Hartsock, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Concentrations of chlorine and cyanide will be cut in half and silver concentrations to a quarter, according to a Post-Tribune review of the permit, which still needs final approval. U.S. Steel uses chlorine to kill invasive zebra mussels in the water it takes in for cooling.

The mill's previous permit did not contain limits for cadmium, copper, nickel or silver, but the new one will. The stricter limits are a result of permit modifications and policy changes since U.S. Steel's last permit was issued in the early 1990s. That permit expired in March 1995.

Because the water U.S. Steel dumps is toxic enough to eventually kill a type of small fish and water fleas that are sensitive to pollution, the mill will be required to continue to monitor how those aquatic creatures are doing.

Albert Ettinger, a consultant for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said two types of toxicity limits exist, one for short and one for long term. IDEM determined U.S. Steel's wastewater isn't immediately toxic, but causes damage over time, he said.

"If we made your office 160 degrees, you'd probably die. If it was 95 degrees, you might look for another job, but you wouldn't die," Ettinger said.

U.S. Steel has contacted environmental leaders to set up a meeting to talk over the permit before the public hearing on Dec. 14, company spokeswoman Courtney Boone said.

"This is a regular part of our public outreach during our permitting process to ensure transparency and community awareness of our permits," she wrote in an e-mail to the Post-Tribune.

A meeting date has not yet been set, but environmentalists said they were happy the company took the initiative.

"I think it's always good when we can talk to the company that's involved and especially when the company reaches out and wants to provide information to concerned groups," said Lyman Welch, water quality program manager with the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

He noted that ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor's wastewater permit is also up for public comment until Dec. 27, but the company has not yet initiated a meeting.

Welch said environmentalists plan to attend a separate meeting Dec. 2 called by IDEM to talk over both steel mill permits and answer questions.



Posted 11/22/2010




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