Choose OK resolves settlement with US Metal over the 2017 Indiana spill

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) – A federal judge approved a revised settlement with US Steel more than four years after one of the steelmaker’s plants in Indiana dumped sewage containing a potentially carcinogenic chemical into a Lake Michigan tributary.

US District Judge Jon DeGuilio in Hammond on Tuesday granted the state and federal governments’ request for approval of the revised consent decree, noting that the changes were fair and reasonable and that the government and US Steel had negotiated the terms in good faith .

“The government plaintiffs used extensive public feedback to produce a consent decree that resulted in a consent decree that addresses the causes of the violations listed in the complaint,” he wrote.

DeGuilio also denied requests from the Surfrider Foundation and the City of Chicago for an evidence hearing or oral argument on the consent decree, the (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

The Surfrider Foundation and Chicago officials had argued that the proposed deal, announced by the government in April 2018, was inadequate and called for tougher penalties for US Steel.

As part of the settlement, US Steel is paying a civil fine of $ 601,242 and more than $ 625,000 to reimburse various government agencies for the cost of the oil spill at its Portage, Indiana facility. In addition, the company will conduct a three-year sampling program along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, which will cost approximately $ 600,000.

The consent decree addresses the April 2017 spill and other 2013 clean water violations at the Portage plant.

The 2017 spill sent 300 pounds (135 kilograms) of hexavalent chromium into the Burns Waterway, a tributary of Lake Michigan about 30 miles east of Chicago. The amount of toxic heavy metal released was 584 times the daily limit allowed under state licensing laws.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said that hexavalent chromium could be carcinogenic if ingested.

The leak resulted in the closure of several beaches along Lake Michigan and the closure of Indiana American Water’s receiving facility in Ogden Dunes, Indiana.

A hexavalent chromium case was made known in the 2000 film Erin Brockovich, which showed the disposal of hexavalent chromium water by a utility company in unlined ponds near Hinkley, California. This disposal method polluted drinking water wells and resulted in a $ 333 million settlement.

Surfrider said in a statement it was disappointed that the court approved the revised consent decree, “especially given US Steel’s continued violations of the Clean Water Act.”

It added, however, that “the court recognized that public comments submitted by Surfrider and the City of Chicago, among others, resulted in significant improvements to the consent decree originally proposed by governments in 2018.”

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