October 15, 2021

IDEM: U.S. Steel violated its permit when it released excess iron

Excess iron leaks from one of the outfalls at U.S. Steel's facility in Portage.  - Courtesy of Collin Czilli

Excess iron leaks from one of the outfalls at U.S. Steel's facility in Portage.

Courtesy of Collin Czilli

A state environmental agency said U.S. Steel violated its permit when it released excess iron into a Lake Michigan waterway last month, causing it to turn a rusty color. That’s according to a report by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management this week.

The report said several things went wrong that day.

U.S. Steel didn’t get an order of sulfuric acid on time for its wastewater treatment plant. When it borrowed acid from another area, that increased the flow through the treatment plant – causing more iron to spill out.

READ MORE: U.S. Steel Leaks Rusty Substance Just Weeks After Agreeing To Pay For 2017 Spill


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An aeration blower that helps remove iron failed and the facility had a plugged feed line.

U.S. Steel has about 10 days to let IDEM know how the plant plans to correct those issues and ensure it complies with its permit in the future. IDEM said it will collaborate with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement.

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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