Nov 15, 2017

U.S. Steel Dumps Chromium in Lake Michigan Tributary

The steel company faces a mounting lawsuit in response to the second spill of the year

U.S. Steel oil spill in Lake Michigan

U.S. Steel dumped 56.7 lb of chromium into a Lake Michigan tributary in late October. According to the Chicago Tribune, a wastewater treatment system at the northwest Indiana plant malfunctioned Oct. 25, but wasn’t noticed until the next day. In a letter to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management dated Oct. 31, the company revealed that this release was 89% higher than its water pollution permit allows for 24 hours and requested “confidential treatment” of the incident.

University of Chicago law students uncovered the letter while investigating pollution violations by U.S. Steel. Currently, the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic is gathering evidence for a lawsuit against the steel company for continued violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

In April, U.S. Steel had a larger spill containing 346 lb of chromium, including 298 lb of hexavalent chromium. The two spills came from the same sewer outfall and is directly connected to equipment that strips hexavalent chromium from wastewater. Of concern to Chicagoans is the proximity of the steel mill to a Chicago drinking water intake off 68th Street— only 20 miles apart.