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News Worms


Elevated level of spilled chemical found in Lake Michigan, agency says

Elevated level of spilled chemical found in Lake Michigan, agency says

Water samples from Lake Michigan and one of its tributaries show no significant discharge of a potentially carcinogenic chemical from a U.S. Steel Corp. wastewater spill in northern in, the Environmental Protection Agency said Friday.

On Wednesday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a statement that they have been conducting "intensive water sampling" of Lake Michigan after a US Steel Corporation facility discharged wastewater containing hexavalent chromium (also known as chromium-6) into Burns Waterway.

U.S. Steel said a preliminary investigation shows an expansion joint failed Tuesday in a pipe at its Portage, Ind., facility, allowing wastewater from an electroplating treatment process that contains hexavalent chromium to flow into the wrong wastewater treatment plant at the complex.

The sample showed 2 parts per billion of hexavalent chromium - a toxic heavy metal used in a variety of industrial processes, including steelmaking and corrosion prevention.

EPA, working with the National Park Service, has identified a number of locations for ongoing water and sediment sampling along the lakeshore, both east and west of Burns Waterway.

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None had been detected either in the water treated and stored at Indiana American Water Company's treatment facility in Ogden Dunes.

The National Park Service has closed a third beach along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore following a nearby toxic wastewater spill.

"We shouldn't have any health effects", he said. Park officials Wednesday closed the beach at Cowles Bog, though the trails there remain open. Many people were concerned about their beaches and drinking water.

After the spill, Chicago officials ordered additional testing of the city's drinking water but found no trace of the chemical near where water is collected for treatment, said a statement from Gary Litherland, a spokesman for the Department of Water Management.

Earlier, Kelley Gannon, a U.S. Steel spokeswoman, said the spill was caused by a pipe failure.

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Water intake results initially showed hexavalent chromium levels slightly above the detection limit.

U.S. Steel said in its statement that a "controlled, phased and highly monitored" restart of the process would begin sometime Friday, allowing the company, the EPA and other agencies to conduct water and soil samples while the beaches and water intake remain closed.

In addition, USS said, "all production processes were shut down and additional steps (taken) to mitigate the impact". That disposal method polluted drinking water wells and resulted in a $333 million settlement.

Hexavalent chromium can cause severe skin irritation and even cancer. It said that wastewater is supposed to flow into a special treatment plant, but the pipe failure prevented that from happening.

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