HAMMOND, Ind. (AP)
- U.S. Steel will pay a $600,000 civil penalty and $630,000 to reimburse
various federal agencies for costs and damages after one of its plants
discharged wastewater containing a potentially carcinogenic chemical into a
tributary of Lake Michigan, federal and state officials said Monday.
The U.S. Justice
Department said those terms are contained in a consent decree filed Monday
in federal court in which U.S. Steel promised to take steps to improve its
wastewater processing monitoring system to resolve alleged violations of the
Clean Water Act and Indiana law.
The April 2017
spill at a U.S. Steel manufacturing and finishing plant into the Burns
Waterway near Portage, Indiana, contained hexavalent chromium, a toxic heavy
metal that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said might be
carcinogenic if ingested. The Justice Department said the plant experienced
a rupture in an expansion joint in wastewater pipes, discharging untreated
wastewater into the tributary.
with U.S. Steel appropriately penalizes the company for last year's
wastewater spill, recoups the government's response costs and other losses,
and requires significant actions by the company to prevent toxic spills like
this from occurring again," Jeffrey H. Wood, the acting assistant attorney
general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources
Division, said in a statement.
As part of the
agreement, U.S. Steel will reimburse the EPA $350,000 for its response costs
and the National Park Service more than $250,000 for its response costs and
damages resulting from weeklong beach closures along the Indiana Dunes
National Lakeshore, the Justice Department said.
U.S. Steel said in
a statement the steps it's taking include installing a new wastewater piping
system and completing repairs to a containment trench; implementing new
spill notification procedures.
The company said
the consent decree also resolves violations from another wastewater
discharge last October containing a less toxic form of chromium.
The settlement is
subject to a 30-day public comment period and final approval by the court.
The EPA has said
hexavalent chromium is used in a variety of industrial processes, including
steelmaking and corrosion prevention, and as a pigment in dyes, paints and
inks. It's also found in ash from coal-fired power plants.
A case involving
the chemical was made famous by the 2000 film "Erin Brockovich," which was
based on a utility's disposal of water laced with hexavalent chromium in
unlined ponds near Hinkley, California. That disposal method polluted
drinking water wells and resulted in a $333 million settlement.