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US Steel Faces Wastewater Calamity, Dumps Carcinogens into Waterway

US Steel, currently facing significant fines for violation of the Clean Air Act, reported a spill of wastewater into a waterway just 100 yards from Lake Michigan earlier this week. A pipe failure apparently caused the spill, releasing a potentially carcinogenic chemical into a tributary of Lake Michigan.

The US Steel plant in Portage, Indiana, reported a spill of an unknown amount of wastewater on Tuesday; the EPA confirmed the water contained the carcinogen hexavalent chromium. The EPA said none of that chemical was found in Lake Michigan or in water from the water utility that serves the area, according to the Oklahoman.

US Steel said a preliminary investigation indicated that an expansion joint failed in a pipe, allowing wastewater from an electroplating treatment process to flow into the wrong wastewater treatment plant and out into the Burns Waterway via a drainage pipe.

In 2016, US Steel was fined $2.2 million and required to make repairs for pollution in the Midwest, according to the Detroit Free Press. The company settled with the US Department of Justice, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the states of Indiana and Illinois. The company agreed to pay the fine, and to spend an additional $1.9 million on facility upgrades and environmental projects, without admitting any wrongdoing, saying (via a company spokesperson) it was in the best interest of the company to settle the matter and “move forward with our environmental stewardship priorities.”

Last year the company also faced fines for asbestos violations at the company’s Pittsburgh facility, according to OSHA.

US Steel will be required to repair the system at its Portage plant, and to clean it; the progress on that will be monitored by the EPA, writes the Chicago Tribune.

The company released a statement saying it “has identified the source of the process release that occurred April 11 at our Midwest Plant and has made the necessary repairs. Extensive testing has been, and continues to be, conducted on the repairs as well as on the water in and around the surrounding area.”

The statement goes on to say that recent sampling has indicated the company is in compliance with its water permit limits.


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