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