Steel Mills

Another Chromium Spill at U.S. Steel

Written by Tim Triplett

The Chicago Tribune was the first to report that U.S. Steel released toxic chromium into Lake Michigan on Oct. 26 due to a malfunction in the wastewater treatment system at the steelmaker’s Midwest Plant in Portage, Ind. The 56.7 pounds of chromium was 89 percent higher than U.S. Steel’s water pollution permit allows in a 24-hour period.

U.S. Steel is being criticized for not reporting the spill right away and asking Indiana officials for confidential treatment of the incident. U.S. Steel defended its actions in a statement that asserts the incident “did not pose any danger to the water supply, human health or the environment.”

“On Thursday, Oct. 26, we experienced an operating excursion at our water treatment plant located within our Midwest Plant in Portage, Ind., that resulted in an exceedance of our total chrome limits. We immediately shut down the affected portion of the treatment plant and shifted to an alternate operation that allowed us to identify the cause and make the necessary corrections to be within allowable levels. We promptly communicated with IDEM to inform them of the incident as required by our NPDES permit and continue to work to ensure that there is no environmental impact. As the event did not pose any danger to the water supply, human health or the environment, public notification to the National Response Center was not required. Any confidentiality requests were made in later correspondence due to business-sensitive material and have since been waived,” the company said.

The latest spill follows on a similar but more significant incident in April in which a U.S. steel facility released a reported 346 pounds of chromium, including 298 pounds of hexavalent chromium, into the Burns Harbor Waterway adjacent to Lake Michigan.

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