Steel Mills

Chicago Threatens to Sue U.S. Steel Over Chromium Spills

Written by Tim Triplett

In a news conference on Sunday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city of Chicago intends to file a federal lawsuit against U.S. Steel alleging the steelmaker has violated the Clean Water Act. U.S. Steel’s Portage, Ind., mill has spilled more than its permitted amount of chromium into a Lake Michigan tributary in two incidents this year.

Emanuel criticized U.S. Steel for its lack of transparency and its delay in reporting the latest incident. He also criticized the EPA for lax environmental enforcement under the Trump administration. “The silence from the Trump EPA has led the city of Chicago to sue and to also shake up and wake up the EPA to their responsibilities,” Emanuel said.

Also considering penalties against U.S. steel as a result of the two chromium discharges is the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. IDEM has been working with its federal partners in negotiating an agreement in principle with U.S. Steel that will be contained in a federal consent decree that will address the violations of the Clean Water Act,” the state environmental agency said in a statement.

U.S. Steel reportedly released chromium into Lake Michigan on Oct. 26 due to a malfunction in the wastewater treatment system at the steelmaker’s Midwest Plant in Portage. The 56.7 pounds of chromium was 89 percent higher than U.S. Steel’s water pollution permit allows in a 24-hour period. 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 toxic hexavalent chromium, into the Burns Harbor Waterway adjacent to Lake Michigan.

In response, U.S. Steel issued the following statement: “U.S. Steel is committed to complying with all environmental standards, to ensuring the safety of our employees and our neighbors in the communities in which we live and operate, and to safeguarding our shared environment. We take that responsibility very seriously and recognize this as a critical aspect of our role as a member of each community in which we operate. We also take every incident seriously. We have worked with appropriate government agencies in the past as effectively as possible and continue those efforts as part of our work to continuously improve our environmental compliance processes.

“With regard to the Oct. 26 operating excursion at our Midwest Plant, we want to reiterate the event did not pose any danger to water supply or human health, and we promptly communicated the issue to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).”

U.S. Steel has 60 days to respond after receiving notice of Chicago’s intent to sue.

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