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U.S. Steel has yet another spill, Holcomb says state will handle 'like any other accident'

steele plant

The U.S. Steel plant in Portage as seen from Indiana Dunes National Park. (FILE PHOTO: Tyler Lake/WTIU)

The U.S. Steel plant in Portage has had another spill into a Lake Michigan waterway — the second one in less than two weeks. A sheen was discovered in the Burns Waterway on Thursday.

It caused Indiana Dunes National Park to temporarily close off access to the water and shoreline at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk — beach waters were reopened to the public late Friday morning.

A spokesperson for U.S. Steel said an existing boom in the water contained the sheen over a roughly 120 square foot area — so it didn’t get into Lake Michigan. The company said the sheen is no longer there, but that it’s investigating what caused it.

READ MORE: Letter to Holcomb, IDEM: Stop industrial spills on Lake Michigan

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues.

Last week a coalition of residents and environmental advocates sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb and the commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. It urged them to take action to prevent these frequent spills on Lake Michigan.

When asked about this latest leak from U.S. Steel, it wasn’t clear if Gov. Holcomb recognizes the spills as a recurring problem that needs more attention.

“These spills are unsatisfactory and they have ramifications and we’ll deal with it like we do any accident," he said. 

The city of Chicago takes some of its water from Lake Michigan. In an email statement, the Chicago Department of Water Management said U.S. Steel notified the department of the sheen.

The department said in the statement it needed to notify it of all discharges to respond quickly.

"U.S. Steel's disregard for our region's most precious natural resource is unacceptable. Millions of Illinoisians rely on Lake Michigan as their water supply," the statement said. "We urge the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and U.S. EPA to respond urgently to this matter and to make protection of the lake from industrial pollution a priority."

This story has been updated.

Contact reporter Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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