Chesterton Tribune



Portage Lakefront reopens; third day no cyanide found; group to sue ArcelorMittal

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The National Park Service re-opened Indiana Dune National Park’s Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk site on Thursday, as ongoing water sampling of sites both along the East Arm of the Little Calumet River and along Lake Michigan shoreline continue to show no detectable levels of cyanide.

The beach at the site was closed on Thursday, Aug. 15, after ArcelorMittal notified the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) of exceedances of cyanide and ammonia four days earlier, on Sunday, Aug. 11, following the failure of a blast furnace recirculation system. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources subsequently reported that some 3,000 fish died as a result of the exceedances.

ArcelorMittal and IDEM both reported on Thursday that for a third consecutive day, Tuesday, Aug. 20, results of water sampling at 12 sites along the Little Cal and at eight shoreline beaches were either “non-detect for cyanide” or “well below the federal Safe Drinking Water Act maximum contaminant level for cyanide of .2 mg/l.”

Meanwhile, a Portage attorney, Thomas Dogan, has filed a notice of intent to sue ArcelorMittal for violations of the Clean Water Act. Joining that suit, among others, are the Marquette Yacht Club, the Portage Port Authority, and Dunes Harbor LLC, as well as approximately 50 individual plaintiffs, Dogan told the Chesterton Tribune in a cover letter.

The notice--filed on Thursday--specifically alleges that “ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor LLC has repeatedly violated, and will continue to violate,” the terms of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, with respect both to “discharge limits and facility maintenance.”

“Most egregiously, on or about Aug. 12 or 13, 2019, according to available reports, poor facility maintenance allowed for the illegal discharge of many times the allowable discharge limits of total cyanide and ammonia nitrogen,” the notice states.

“Further, ArcelorMittal has violated its permit limits regarding ammonia discharges within the past seven months,” the notice states, when on Feb. 5, 2019, the company “reported a spill of about 10,000 gallons of ammonia liquor,” following a “high voltage power interruption that caused a backup in the production line and an overflow of ammonia liquor on the ground.”

The suit also notes that, on Thursday, Aug. 15, “ArcelorMittal admitted publicly that it greatly exceeded” permit limits for ammonia and cyanide.

The notice then provides dozens of “potential plaintiff anecdotal reports.” A sampling:

-- Portage Public Marina: “Our marina had barrels of dead and possible poisonous fish located on the premise after the ArcelorMittal cyanide dumping. The smell has been atrocious ever since this fish-kill took place. There are also dead birds.”

-- Marina Shores at Dunes Harbor LLC: “All of our boater residents and many of our housing residents are panicking. People are not purchasing fuel for their boats because of cyanide in the water. People are scared and are staying away.”

-- Marquette Yacht Club: “Our club depends on boaters purchasing fuel, patronizing our restaurant, and recreating on our docks and on the Burns Waterway and Lake Michigan. All of this has slowed and/or stopped since reports of this spill have been disclosed.”

-- Gina Barcal: “I had family in town over the weekend with small children and we spent the day at the beach. We were at the beach with our dogs as well. It’s upsetting that we couldn’t use the beach. We are worried about property values and our drinking water.”

-- Mary Ewen: “I live in Burns Waterway and I have well water. I am scared the cyanide is in my drinking water. I am going to have it tested. I am fearful for my health.”

-- Phil Grenchik: “I was surfing at the Dunes on Aug. 14, 2019, and at the mouth of the Burns Waterway Aug. 15, 2019. It is a little unnerving knowing that I was swimming in the water and had no idea of the spill.”

-- Greg Galloway: “I fish out of the Portage Public Marina on a daily basis. My kids and I were on the lake on Aug. 14, 2019, for a few hours. I am very concerned about any long-lasting issues that may arise from the chemical spill.”



Posted 8/23/2019




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