Chemical spill from U.S. Steel's Portage, Ind., facility causes beach closures along Lake Michigan

The U.S. Steel facility in Portage reported a wastewater discharge Tuesday morning to the Burns Waterway, and EPA determined the wastewater contained hexavalent chromium.

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Outfall results reported by EPA this morning still show detectable hexavalent chromium in the waterway. Photo: EPA.

PORTAGE, IN, APRIL 12, 2017 -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emergency responders continued a second day of intensive water sampling efforts following U.S. Steel's report yesterday that its Portage, Ind., facility had released hexavalent chromium to Burns Waterway, about 100 yards from Lake Michigan. U.S. Steel has reported to EPA that its release has been stopped at the source. It's not known how much has been spilled.

The spill forced the closure of Indiana American Water's intake in Ogden Dunes and several beaches in the area.

EPA sampling today and yesterday has not detected hexavalent chromium from the spill in Lake Michigan. Yesterday, in an abundance of caution, Indiana American Water in Ogden Dunes -- the nearest municipal water source -- shut down its water intake and switched to a reserve water supply.

According to of Northwest Indiana,Ogden Dunes officials said the town's drinking water is currently coming from Indiana American's plant in Gary.

The intake, beaches and riverwalk remain closed today.

Today, EPA continues to conduct sampling at the outfall, water intake, beaches and Burns Ditch.

The U.S. Steel facility in Portage reported a wastewater discharge Tuesday morning to the Burns Waterway, and EPA determined the wastewater contained hexavalent chromium, a toxic byproduct of industrial processes.

According to a release from U.S. Steel, the company notified the appropriate agencies, which includes EPA, U.S. Coast Guard, IDEM, National Park Service, Indiana Department of Fish and Wildlife and Indiana American Water.

Wastewater Treatment Clarifiers At Us Steel
Wastewater treatment clarifiers at US Steel. Photo: EPA.

"We will continue to work cooperatively with these agencies and other appropriate agencies until this situation is corrected," the U.S Steel release stated.

Outfall results reported by EPA this morning still show detectable hexavalent chromium in the waterway. Overnight, levels at the outfall were as high as 2,231 ug/L. Water intake results initially showed hexavalent chromium levels slightly above the detection limit. A confirmation run on that same sample showed that it was at or below the detection limit, well below EPA's health-based standard for drinking water.

EPA and the National Park Service have identified additional locations for water and sediment sampling along the lakeshore (east and west of Burns Ditch).

EPA is working closely with the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management, the City of Portage, the water company and NPS. For more information, visitresponse.epa.gov/USSteelHexavalentChrome,

Read more here.

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