The Environmental Protection Agency is responding to a chemical spill, which threatens beaches and the nearest public water intake, from the U.S. Steel facility in Portage.
US Steel reported Tuesday the wastewater spill into Burns Waterway, about 100 yards away from Lake Michigan. In a statement released late Wednesday, U.S. Steel says the spill resulted from an equipment failure and it has idled all production processes at the facility.
The spill contained a toxic industrial byproduct called chromium-6. Cathy Martin, a program manager for Save The Dunes, says the chemical is a carcinogen and can cause skin lesions.
“Right now for sure, no one should be coming into physical contact with the lake until we know that the chemical has dissipated and is not along the shore anymore,” Martin says.
In response to the spill, the National Parks Service has closed three beaches at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana American Water has shut down the nearest public water intake at Ogden Dunes.
In a statement, the EPA says it’s working with U.S. Steel to contain the spill, the size of which is not yet known. Attempts to reach US Steel were unsuccessful.
Martin says this spill is a perfect example of why many environmentalists are calling on President Trump to preserve EPA funding, which his budget cuts by 31 percent.
“We need these agencies to help identify issues like this, get this information to the public, and help keep our waters safe,” says Martin.
This story has been updated.