Environmental Groups Say They'll Sue ArcelorMittal If Regulators Don't Act

Oct 8, 2019

Credit Tyler Lake / IPB News

Two environmental groups say they’ll sue northwest Indiana steel company ArcelorMittal if the government doesn’t make it pay for environmental violations. 

In August, the company’s Burns Harbor facility discharged excess cyanide and ammonia into the Little Calumet River, killing about 3,000 fish and forcing beaches to close temporarily.

Jeffrey Hammons with the Environmental Law and Policy Center says the company is supposed to notify regulators immediately when a harmful spill occurs, but ArcelorMittal waited four days.

“In the meantime, you had people who were worried about well, they were in the water and they had no idea that this was in the water because nobody told them,” he says.

ArcelorMittal says it had to wait for water sample results to come back from the lab before it knew about the permit exceedence and could notify the state.

But the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Environmental Law and Policy Center say ArcelorMittal has had more than 100 other violations over the past four years.

“It was pretty consistently they were having violations of their permit over the last few years. And occasionally the state would send a notice of violation letter, but that was about it. There was no enforcement, there was no penalties," Hammons says.

The environmental groups are giving ArcelorMittal, state and federal regulators 60 days to take action or else they’ll sue.

In a statement, an ArcelorMittal spokesperson said the company continues to focus on compliance and hopes to understand the root cause of the August incident to prevent similar incidents in the future. 

Contact 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.