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ArcelorMittal in Burns Harbor, Indiana, has denied allegations of manipulating test results that the facility must share with state regulators, after a chemical spill from the plant killed fish in Little Calumet river in Aug 2019.


The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) suggested in a Jan 6 letter to ArcelorMittal, that the company habitually redid tests that exposed violations, and used those results instead of the ones reported to the state, which is not permissible and undermines integrity of tests submitted.


Aside from the spill in August, the IDEM has found a series of discharges from the facility that exceed permit levels. IDEM noted other tests at the plant found unacceptable amounts of ammonia and cyanide in water discharged from one of the plant’s outfalls. ArcelorMittal has been unable to determine the source of the cyanide and ammonia coming from that outfall.


However, an ArcelorMittal spokesperson denied manipulating data, saying that certified, independent laboratories were used to analyze samples and that the data is reported—including corrected data—from the labs to the agencies consistent with industry and laboratory standards. 


Additionally, he said that the event related to the primary water discharge point is sampled daily, wherein the mill has been following cyanide and ammonia limits every day since the event concluded.  


In August, approximately 3,000 fish were killed by a cyanide and ammonia spill from the plant to the river feeding into Lake Michigan. In October an IDEM report discovered the company missed warning signs one week prior to the spill. 


The state accused ArcelorMittal of committing seven permit violations, including, failing to promptly notify the state, failure to properly maintain the plant, and failing to minimize effects of the spill and ordered the company to add ammonia-nitrogen to its daily cyanide testing. A month later it also added testing for total phenols, fluoride, and traces of zinc, lead, silver, copper, boron, iron, and chemical oxygen.

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