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Democrats on House Environmental Affairs Committee send letters to IDEM, EPA following latest U.S. Steel spill

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Democratic members of the House Committee on Environmental Affairs yesterday (Sept. 29) sent a letter to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging them to investigate U.S. Steel and the effects of its latest contamination of Lake Michigan.

U.S. Steel spilled what has been found to be iron into Lake Michigan earlier this week. The contamination shut down beaches within the Indiana Dunes National Park and along significant portions of Northwest Indiana's shoreline. This is the latest in a series of wastewater violations by U.S. Steel since 2013 that have helped Indiana maintain its reputation of having the most toxic chemical releases in the nation. 

The cause of the spill and the effect of the released iron have yet to be determined.

Lake Michigan is a part of the largest fresh water supply in North America. It serves as a significant source for drinking water, tourism dollars and recreational activities, such as fishing and boating.

“The continued contamination of Lake Michigan is a symptom of Indiana's complete disregard for its environmental health,” the Democratic members of the Indiana House Environmental Affairs Committee wrote.

“Indiana shares the borders and the benefits of the Great Lakes with eight other states and Ontario, Canada. We owe it to our neighbors to protect and care for the waters within our borders. We're calling on IDEM and the EPA to hold us to the same standards for our share of the shoreline as our neighbors and to help us preserve one of the greatest environmental and economic assets we have.”

State Rep. Sue Errington serves as the Ranking Minority Member on the committee alongside members State Reps. Pat Boy (D-Michigan City), Carolyn Jackson (D-Hammond) and Maureen Bauer (D-South Bend).

Read the full letter below.

 


 

September 29, 2021

Commissioner Bruno Pigott
Indiana Department of Environmental Management
Indiana Government Center North
100 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Commissioner Pigott,

We, the Democratic members of the Indiana House of Representatives' Committee on Environmental Affairs, are deeply troubled by recent reports of a leakage of pollutants from the U.S. Steel plant in Portage into Lake Michigan.  To address our concerns related to this incident and consider potential legislative remedies to prevent future contaminations from occurring, we are requesting a meeting with you and your staff. 

Our first, and most pressing, concern pertaining to the U.S. Steel spill is the impact this will have on Northwest Indiana.  Not only does the area play host to several of Indiana's environmental landmarks, but it also serves as home for a great many Hoosiers.  The safety of our state's natural wonders and residents must be a priority for our state government.  We ask that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management thoroughly investigate the impact this spill will wreak on the area and, in particular, determine what effect the excess levels of iron in Lake Michigan will have on the environment, public health and wildlife of Northwest Indiana. 

We would also like to express our frustration with U.S. Steel for their continued wastewater contaminations.  From wastewater permit violations in 2013 to a spill of 300 pounds of cancer-causing hexavalent chromium into the Burns Waterway in 2017, it appears to us that the practices of U.S. Steel warrant review.  We ask that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management initiate an investigation into U.S. Steel for their continued violations. 

Finally, we would appreciate the chance to speak with you about potential legislative remedies that could be pursued in order to prevent future contaminations.  We fear that contaminations such as the U.S. Steel spill will continue to occur in Indiana without legislative redress. 

We look forward to your agency's findings on this latest contamination of Lake Michigan and welcome any opportunity to speak with you on this matter further. Please contact our offices at h34@iga.in.gov or 317-233-5248 with any questions or meeting opportunities. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

 

Sue Errington
Ranking Minority Member of House Committee on Environmental Affairs
State Representative
District 34

Pat Boy
State Representative
District 9

Carolyn Jackson
State Representative
District 1

Maureen Bauer
State Representative
District 6

 

CC:        Brian Rockensuess
              Cheryl Newton

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