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EPA Wants More Info On How U.S. Steel Will Prevent Spills

U.S. Steel's Midwest Plant in Portage, Indiana. (Galina Ovtcharova & Alexei Ovtcharov/Fotki)

U.S. Steel’s Midwest Plant in Portage, Indiana. (Galina Ovtcharova & Alexei Ovtcharov/Fotki)

Wednesday, June 6 is the last day for the public to comment on U.S. Steel’s plans to make up for spilling a toxic chemical into a Lake Michigan tributary last year. But the Environmental Protection Agency says those plans are incomplete.

In a letter, the EPA says U.S. Steel’s consent decree is missing a lot of detail. Among other things, it doesn’t list standard practices that U.S. Steel will adopt to prevent or lessen the impact of future spills.

“This letter from EPA is consistent with what we’ve been saying all along, that this proposed settlement doesn’t go far enough,” says Colin Deverell, Midwest program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.

Attorney Rob Weinstock represents the Surfrider Foundation, which is suing U.S. Steel for violations of the Clean Water Act.

“It’s nice to know that a regulator is paying attention, which hasn’t been the case for years at the U.S. Steel facility,” he says. “We are gratified in that sense that both the public and regulators appear to be on the case.”

Last year, U.S. Steel spilled roughly 300 pounds of the cancer-causing chemical hexavalent chromium into the Burns Waterway. But Deverell says the company has made many more violations and should have to pay millions of dollars in civil penalties, not the more than $600,000 proposed in the settlement.

Officials with U.S. Steel say the company plans to provide further information and cooperate with the EPA. The public can submit comments on U.S. Steel’s plans to the U.S. Department of Justice through Wednesday June 6.

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