APRIL 14, 2017
U.S. Steel expected to begin phasing in operations Friday at the Portage facility that released a toxic chemical into Burns Waterway earlier this week as preliminary test results did not detect the carcinogen in the waterway or Lake Michigan.
According to an EPA statement Friday, preliminary results of water samples collected Wednesday that included the lake, the waterway, and Indiana American Water's intake did not indicate an impact from hexavalent chromium. All of the results were below the EPA's method detection limit of 1 part per billion. The agency has a national drinking water standard for total chromium of 100 parts per billion, including trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium.
Three beaches in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, as well as one in Ogden Dunes and an intake for Indiana American Water, will remain closed for the time being, officials said.
Officials at the national lakeshore closed West Beach and the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk on Tuesday after learning of the chemical spill, caused by a pipe malfunction at the steel mill.
APRIL 12, 2017
A spill at the U.S. Steel plant in Portage this week leaked a toxic chemical into Burns Waterway, a Lake Michigan tributary, forcing the closure of beaches in and around the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and leaving officials scrambling to determine the extent of damage caused to the local environment.
Low levels of the chemical hexavalent chromium, which is a carcinogen, were found in Lake Michigan, near the mouth of Burns Waterway, Sam Borries a branch chief for Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's emergency response program. It's unclear whether, or how far, the chemical traveled down the shoreline, but officials took 100 samples along the waterway east and west of its entry point to the lake and results are expected Thursday, Borries said.
"It will naturally reduce and stabilize on its own as it moves down the stream," Borries said.
A pipe failure at the steel plant led to the contaminated water being released to the wrong wastewater treatment plant at U.S. Steel Midwest and being discharged into Burns Waterway, according to a statement from Kelley Gannon, a U.S. Steel spokeswoman. The waterway is adjacent to the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk.