Canadian Manufacturing

2nd spill in less than two weeks at US Steel plant prompts precautions

U.S. Steel said last week that a failure by a vendor to deliver sulfuric acid used for wastewater treatment was part of the cause of the Sept. 26 spill.

October 8, 2021  by Associated Press

A second spill in less than two weeks at a U.S. Steel plant in northwest Indiana sent an oily sheen onto a Lake Michigan tributary, prompting officials to close some nearby lake access as a precaution.

The sheen was detected on Oct. 7 on Burns Waterway outside the U.S. Steel Midwest plant in Portage, but by 8 p.m. it was no longer present on the tributary, said company spokeswoman Amanda Malkowski.

She said an existing boom had contained the sheen in an estimated 120-square-foot (11.1-square-meter) area, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

“No sheen was observed entering or in Lake Michigan,” Malkowski said. “We continue to investigate the cause.”

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U.S. Steel temporarily idled the plant about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of Chicago, as a precaution, but operations had returned to normal by the night of Oct. 7, she said.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management was investigating, spokesman Barry Sneed said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had no immediate comment on Oct. 7’s discharge.

Indiana American Water’s Ogden Dunes water treatment facility remained online and the spill wasn’t expected to impact its Lake Michigan source water, said spokesman Joe Loughmiller.

“We are continuing to closely watch our source water monitors and remain in contact with all involved parties regarding this situation,” he said.

The water utility had idled that treatment plant for about a week starting in late September after U.S. Steel’s Portage plant discharged iron-tainted wastewater into the Burns Waterway.

That rusty-colored discharge led to the temporary closure of the Portage Riverwalk and Lakefront and beaches at the Indiana Dunes National Park.

U.S. Steel said last week that a failure by a vendor to deliver sulfuric acid used for wastewater treatment was part of the cause of the Sept. 26 spill. The EPA said preliminary testing indicated the iron-tainted wastewater presented no risk to public health.


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