US Steel Ordered to Improve Environmental Compliance at Portage
The United States, together with the State of Indiana, announced that the US District Court for the Northern District of Indiana has approved the revised consent decree requiring US Steel Corporation to address alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and other federal and Indiana laws by undertaking substantial measures to improve wastewater treatment and monitoring systems at its steel manufacturing and finishing facility in Portage, known as its Midwest Plant, and to strengthen and broaden US Steel’s public and stakeholder notification procedures in the event of a spill or release to ground, soil or water.
The consent decree approved by the Court also requires US Steel to pay USD 601,242 as a civil penalty, to be split evenly between the United States and the State of Indiana and to reimburse the US Environmental Protection Agency USD 350,653 and the National Park Service USD 12,564 for response costs incurred as a result of an April 2017 spill of wastewater containing pollutants including hexavalent chromium that entered a waterway that flows into Lake Michigan. In addition, the decree requires U.S. Steel to pay the National Park Service’s calculation of damages of USD 240,504 resulting from beach closures along the Indiana Dunes National Park shoreline and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s natural resource damage assessment costs if USD 27,512.
After lodging a proposed consent decree in April 2018, the Governments received approximately 2,700 public comments, including extensive comments from the City of Chicago and the Surfrider Foundation (plaintiff intervenors in the Governments’ action). Having taken those comments into account, the Governments, with the concurrence of US Steel, revised the proposed decree to strengthen and broaden US Steel’s public and stakeholder notification procedures in the event of a spill or release to ground, soil or water. The revised decree also includes an environmentally beneficial project to be overseen by Indiana that requires water quality testing and reporting by US Steel of pollutants at several shore locations along Lake Michigan, including around the Midwest Plant and near the Indiana Dunes National Park, at an estimated cost of USD 600,000 over three years.