Chicago agency finds high level of spilled chemical in lake

Monday, 17 Apr, 2017

A fence separates United States Steel Gary Works plant from the beach at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore October 12, 2007 in Gary, Indiana.

U.S. Steel says a failed pipe apparently caused a spill at the company's northern IN facility that sent a potentially carcinogenic chemical into a Lake Michigan tributary.

The EPA has said hexavalent chromium - a toxic byproduct of industrial processes - might be carcinogenic if ingested. He also called on U.S. Steel to "immediately explain how they allowed a risky chemical into a Lake Michigan tributary where it could harm millions of people in IN and IL, and what they are doing to ensure this never happens again", and took a jab at the Trump administration efforts to cut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA, working with the National Park Service, has identified a number of locations for ongoing water and sediment sampling along the lakeshore, both east and west of Burns Waterway.

Four nearby beaches and Indiana American Water's intake at Ogden Dunes have been closed "out of an abundance of caution" in the wake of the spill, officials said.

The National Park Service has closed beaches around a chemical spill on Lake Michigan Thursday, April 13, 2017. "Recent sampling has indicated we are in compliance with our water permit limits", the company said.

"Preliminary data suggests that hexavalent chromium from the spill is not present near drinking water intakes", Bassler said.

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The Park Service said Wednesday it closed Cowles Bog Beach based on a recommendation that all beaches within three miles of the spill site be closed as a precaution to protect park visitors. "Those numbers are calculated by an ingestion model", he said, to account for events such as a person accidentally drinking surface water while swimming.

"If elevated levels of chromium are detected, all operations will be immediately shutdown", the company said.

The EPA reports the leak of wastewater that contains hexavalent chromium, a toxic compound that can cause lung cancer as well as damage to the eyes, skin, nose and throat.

U.S. Steel says a pipe failure apparently caused a spill that released an unknown amount of wastewater containing a potentially carcinogenic chemical into a lake tributary.

Water intake results initially showed hexavalent chromium levels slightly above the detection limit.

US Steel will be required to fix the system at its Portage plant, and to clean it; the progress on that will be monitored by the EPA, writes the Chicago Tribune. Plant processes were shut down after the spill, officials said. That disposal method polluted drinking water wells and resulted in a $333 million settlement. It said that wastewater is supposed to flow into a special treatment plant, but the pipe failure prevented that from happening.