Steel Mill Agrees to Clean Up Toxic Waste Piles Threatening Lake Michigan and Indiana Dunes
Settlement a Major Win for Lake Michigan, Northwest Indiana

Valparaiso, Ind. (July 23, 2012) – Representing Save the Dunes and its members, the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) has settled a legal challenge with ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, LLC (AMBH) and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) requiring one of the largest steel mills in North America to properly manage, control, monitor and clean up more than 3 million tons of toxic steel-making waste at its Burns Harbor facility.

The federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Indiana’s solid waste management laws prohibit open dumping of solid waste. Save the Dunes’ petition alleged that AMBH and its predecessors open dumped industrial wastes and sludges very near Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

The wastes at issue include 1.8 million tons of secondary wastewater treatment plant sludge, 870,000 tons of blast furnace filter waste dumped next to the Indiana Harbor, a 34-acre waste pile with sludge from the mill’s blast furnace, basic oxygen furnace and sinter plant sitting within 200 feet of Lake Michigan, as well as several hundred thousand tons per year of newly generated wastes from the mill’s ongoing operations.

The controversy arose in July of 2010 when IDEM issued a permit to AMBH allowing the company to construct an onsite landfill to accept these wastes without imposing any requirements for AMBH to monitor, control, treat or otherwise manage the toxic wastes prior to disposal in the landfill.

“The concern is that the landfill will take years to construct, and even longer before all those wastes are properly disposed of in the landfill.” said Kim Ferraro, HEC’s water policy director and staff attorney representing Save the Dunes, “Without proper controls in the interim, these wastes known to contain lead, cadmium, selenium, chromium, benzene, arsenic and other harmful contaminants, will continue to run off with stormwater or be carried with the wind into Lake Michigan and areas of the National Lakeshore.”

Save the Dunes, represented by HEC, appealed the landfill permit seeking to force IDEM to include requirements for leachate and stormwater control, groundwater monitoring, dust suppression and other measures to prevent the waste from further contaminating the environment. Subsequently, in September of 2011, IDEM entered an Agreed Order (AO) requiring AMBH to do just that. The AO, made part of the settlement agreement with Save the Dunes, imposes waste management and control measures and definitive timelines for disposal of the wastes in the landfill. The AO did not, however, require final soil sampling after clean up of one of the largest waste piles which AMBH agreed to do as part of the settlement with Save the Dunes.

“By bringing this challenge, we arrived at an agreement that protects one of the most unique ecosystems in the world,” said Nicole Barker, executive director of Save the Dunes. “This settlement is a major win for Lake Michigan, and our region’s only national park – the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.”

For more information contact:
Kim Ferraro, Hoosier Environmental Council – kferraro@hecweb.org or 773-392-2955
Nicole Barker, Save the Dunes – nicole@savedunes.org or 219-561-1930
Ryan Puckett, two21 LLC – media@hecweb.org or 317-721-7221

About Hoosier Environmental Council
Founded in 1983, the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) is the largest, statewide environmental policy organization in Indiana. HEC aims to set a new path for Indiana, embracing practices and policies that dramatically reduce the footprint of transportation, industry, commerce, and agriculture on the environment.

Visit hecweb.org for more information and follow HEC on Twitter: @hec_ed or like HEC on Facebook: Facebook.com/hecweb

About Save the Dunes
Save the Dunes is an Indiana not-for-profit corporation working to preserve, protect and restore the Indiana Dunes and all natural resources in Northwest Indiana’s Lake Michigan Watershed for an enhanced quality of life. SaveDunes.org

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