Indiana steel mill agrees to pay $3M, improve waste system

A steel company has agreed to pay $3 million and improve the wastewater system at an Indiana mill, more than two years after a discharge of ammonia and toxic chemicals killed fish and closed beaches, the federal government said Monday.

The mill, owned at the time by ArcelorMittal USA, exceeded discharge limits and failed to properly report releases at Burns Harbor, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The agreement was made with the mill’s current owner, Cleveland-Cliffs.

The settlement “appropriately penalizes the company for its significant violations and requires extensive actions by the company to prevent future pollution,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim.

Thousands of fish were killed in the East Branch of the Little Calumet River after the discharge of untreated water. Lake Michigan beaches were closed along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

The government said water pollution levels should be greatly reduced with a new ammonia treatment system and cyanide treatment requirements.

“The company recognizes that all aspects of steelmaking must be accomplished in a responsible manner that minimizes impacts on the environment,” Cleveland-Cliffs said.

Cleveland-Cliffs also agreed to transfer 127 acres to the national lakeshore and conduct water sampling on the Little Calumet River and Lake Michigan.

“The consent decree will result in additional protections for the local community and Lake Michigan and go a long way in improving both health and the environment in northwest Indiana,” said Brian Rockensuess, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

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