In a 3-1 vote Tuesday, the Burns Harbor Board of Zoning Appeals reversed its
June decision and granted a zoning amendment necessary for ArcelorMittal to
expand its onsite solid waste landfill.
The BZA’s reversal came after Mittal filed a lawsuit against the BZA and the
Town Council challenging the BZA’s June 23 landfill rejection. But with
Tuesday’s vote, Mittal will now agree to withdraw its legal challenge within
five days, under the terms of a settlement proposal that the BZA approved
Because the town council was also named in Mittal’s suit, the council will
be asked to approve the same settlement at a special meeting today at 6 p.m.
at the town hall.
Mittal plans to expand its onsite landfill to accept materials such as blast
furnace filter cake, coke oven dust, sludge and other materials classified
as solid waste, some of which are being stockpiled and some of which are
being landfilled off site. Mittal must also obtain a permit, which is still
pending, with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for the
When asked after the meeting if the BZA’s reversal was prompted by the
lawsuit, BZA attorney Charles Parkinson cited the discussion that the BZA
members had at their June 23 meeting. He said Mittal submitted a detailed,
3,000 page application about the landfill that prompted many concerns and
questions that were not fully answered before the BZA cast its vote.
At its July meeting, the BZA tabled approval of its findings of fact
outlining the reasons why it rejected the zoning amendment, with several
members saying that they still had questions about the proposal.
Parkinson said that over the course of several executive sessions and
negotiations between the town and Mittal, the steelmaker agreed to a set of
eight conditions, as follow:
*Mittal will inform the town if there are any significant changes to its
construction plans submitted to IDEM. Those plans call for moving stockpiled
materials to the landfill within three years from the start of the landfill
operations and designing the leachate collection system and the stormwater
pond system so that they will contain any overflow up to a 100-year rain
*Mittal will submit to the BZA all reports submitted to IDEM regarding the
operation of the landfill.
*Mitall will be solely responsible for the construction, operation and
compliance of the landfill.
*Mittal will give the Burns Harbor Building Commissioner “reasonable access”
to the landfill during business hours for inspections.
*The landfill cannot accept waste from any other facility or location, but
only waste streams currently existing at the Burns Harbor plant or generated
there. The town building commissioner has the authority to inspect trucks
entering the landfill facility to ensure this condition is being met.
*Mittal will supply the town with a copy of the permit if approved by IDEM
and any permit amendments.
*Mittal is to make an annual report to the BZA regarding the amount of blast
furnace filter cake landfilled and any efforts to recycle the waste.
*Mittal agrees that any violation of the town code and the conditions
imposed by the BZA would be subject to a stop work order at the landfill.
Parkinson said that in his legal opinion, those conditions satisfy most of
the substantive concerns raised by the BZA.
Prior to the vote, BZA member Gordon McCormick, who was absent at the June
meeting and didn’t vote on the initial rejection, sought assurances that the
only wastes that will be landfilled will be those generated at the Burns
Harbor plant and that the BZA has the information previously lacking about
the thickness of the landfill liner.
The vote to rescind the June decision, and to adopt findings of facts in
support of the zoning amendment, then passed 3-1 with McCormick, Tom
Marconi, and Terry Swanson voting yes and Jim Meeks voting no. Amy Zehner
A second vote, to accept the terms of the settlement proposal, then passed
The settlement agreement includes a provision that Mittal will dismiss its
lawsuit against the town within five days. Parkinson said that legal
challenge essentially raised two main arguments, one of which challenged the
BZA’s June decision. But Mittal also contends that when the BZA first
granted the special exception allowing the landfill in 2007, the approval
included the waste streams that Mittal now wants to landfill.
However, based on the comments raised in June, it is unclear if the BZA
intended to allow anything other than the sludge byproduct of the mill’s
wastewater treatment plant when it first granted the 2007 special exception.
Parkinson said that while Mittal will agree to withdraw its lawsuit,
language in the settlement essentially allows Mittal to preserve its right
to argue again that the original special exception allowed additional
wastes, in the event the BZA is sued for its Tuesday decision.
No public comment was allowed at Tuesday’s meeting, but afterwards, one of
the audience members who spoke against the landfill in June objected to the
Larry Davis, a Mittal steelworker said alternative technologies exist --
even at Mittal’s own plants abroad -- to more effectively reuse and recycle
steelmaking byproducts. “By building this landfill, there’s going to be less
incentive that they’ll recycle,” he said.
Davis produced a Mittal publication that outlines its recycling efforts
overseas, in such ways as using slag as an aggregate for concrete floors and
roads and extracting iron content from the sludge byproduct. Such
alternatives result in considerably less solid waste and minimal air and
water pollution, Davis said.
He also said that from the workers’ perspective, the town’s decision will
not only mean fewer new jobs from the landfilling operations compared to
recycling operations, but also overall less job security, since Mittal is
investing considerably in modernization efforts at its plants in places like
India and Saudi Arabia instead of at Burns Harbor.