Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

U.S. Steel Chemical Spill Exceeds Allowable Limit by 584 Times

Popular

A U.S. Steel plant in Portage, Indiana spilled nearly 300 pounds of a cancer-causing chemical into Burns Waterway last month, documents from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) revealed.


The release of hexavalent chromium was 584 times the daily maximum limit allowed under state law, the Times of Northwest Indiana reported, citing the documents. The plant is permitted to release only a maximum of 0.51 pounds daily.

The toxic industrial byproduct was made infamous by the environmental activist and 2000 movie of the same name, "Erin Brockovich."

The leak occurred between April 11 and April 12 and forced the closure of several Lake Michigan beaches and Indiana American Water's intake in Ogden Dunes. Burns Waterway is a tributary that flows into Lake Michigan, a drinking water source for nearby Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

Following the spill, U.S. Steel has committed to sampling and monitoring lake water on a weekly basis to ensure it is safe through the swimming season, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson said. The discharge was reportedly caused by a pipe failure.

Sam Henderson, a staff attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council, denounced the spill.

"If U.S. Steel had set up its system responsibly, it wouldn't have been possible for a single mechanical failure to dump nearly 300 pounds of hexavalent chrome into Lake Michigan," Henderson told the Times of Northwest Indiana.

"Spills like this show that U.S. Steel isn't taking that responsibility seriously. Industry needs to step up."

The chemical spill highlights concerns over the Trump's administration's proposed cuts to abolish the Integrated Risk Information System, the EPA office working on hexavalent chromium standards in drinking water. The cuts would also affect funding for scientific reviews of toxic chemicals and decrease the EPA's enforcement of environmental laws.

Henderson noted that IDEM's budget "has been slashed to the bone, and we see the consequences of that in accidents like these." IDEM is Indiana's agency charged with protecting the state's environment and human health.

"Now we face the risk that EPA will be severely cut back as well," Henderson said. "If those cuts go through, nobody will be minding the store. And if nobody's minding the store, it's inevitable that spills like this will become more common."

Cindy Skrukrud, clean water program director for Sierra Club Illinois, added that U.S. Steel's spill "illustrates the need we have for a robust EPA to prevent and respond to situations like this."

"We cannot bear cuts to the EPA staff and to its programs that protect the Great Lakes from pollution and cleanup legacy contamination sites. We are all depending on the EPA as we seek answers to the remaining questions about the impacts of the spill on the aquatic life in Burns Waterway," Skrukrud continued. "As potential penalties are considered, they should include funding for restoration projects in and near the impacted areal."

U.S. Steel said last month it takes all incidents "very seriously" and are "fully committed to researching and taking corrective actions to prevent a future occurrence."

The beaches and water intake reopened on April 17 after EPA water samples detected no levels of hexavalent chromium.

However, last month the National Park Service staff said they were concerned about the long-term potential impacts to beach users' health, wildlife and other park resources.

"Lake currents and waves have the ability to move this hazardous material onto park beaches at a later date," the park service said in a news release.

Officials said that periodic beach patrols will be looking for evidence of fish kills or other environmental damage.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda

The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.

Read More Show Less
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Thursday accused NOAA of ignoring its own scientists' findings about the endangerment of the North Atlantic right whale. Lauren Packard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Beth Ann Mayer

Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.

Read More Show Less
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less