Possible Spill From U.S. Steel Plant Forces Beaches, Water Treatment Plant to Close

Some Indiana beaches and a water utility plant were forced to close after an orange substance apparently spilled from a U.S. Steel plant into a Lake Michigan tributary, the Associated Press reported.

Portage Mayor Sue Lynch said Indiana Dunes National Park closed all of its beaches, and a northwest Indiana water treatment facility closed after the apparent spill. Indiana Dunes National Park said all beaches and the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk were closed Sunday until further notice out of an abundance of caution.

Indiana American Water shut down its Ogden Dunes treatment facility on Sunday night, also as a precaution. The utility said in a news release it had not seen any impact on "raw water parameters" as it performs continuous real-time testing at the facility.

The Ogden Dunes treatment plant is expected to remain offline until additional data shows there is no threat to the company's water source.

Indiana American Water said its Borman Park treatment facility in Gary has remained open and has the capacity to meet its customers' needs, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Lake Michigan
An apparent spill from a U.S. Steel plant into a Lake Michigan tributary caused Indiana beaches and a northwest Indiana water treatment facility to close. Above, Lake Michigan at the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois, on July 22, 2019. Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Lynch said she began receiving calls about 5:50 p.m. Sunday, reporting that an unknown substance had appeared in the water near the outfall of the U.S. Steel Midwest plant in Portage, and then traveled toward Lake Michigan along the Burns Waterway, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of Chicago.

"Now it's all the way across the width of the channel into the open area, the mouth of the ditch," Lynch said Sunday evening.

A message seeking comment from U.S. Steel was left Monday morning by AP.

Lynch told The (Northwest Indiana) Times she wasn't sure what the substance could be, but an employee from the Portage Marina had collected a sample for analysis.

A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management said late Sunday that the state agency was investigating.

The apparent spill at the U.S. Steel Midwest plant comes weeks after a federal judge approved a revised settlement with the company, more than four years after the Portage plant discharged wastewater containing a potentially carcinogenic chemical into the Burns Waterway.

U.S. Steel agreed to pay a $601,242 civil penalty and more than $625,000 to reimburse various agencies for costs associated with their response in April of 2017, after the plant spilled 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of hexavalent chromium—or 584 times the daily maximum limit allowed under state permitting laws.