Eighteen environmental and civic organizations want a federal judge to make U.S. Steel (USS) pay a heavier fine than the $601,242 proposed by the government for an April 2017 hazardous chemical spill.
In a letter to the court the coalition said that the proposed civil penalty for the discharge of 902lb of hexavalent chromium from USS’s Portage plant into Burns Waterway does not reflect the seriousness of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit violations.
The letter recommends a revised consent decree that will deter another spill into Lake Michigan and bring USS into compliance with their NPDES permit. It asks the court to identify a process for USS to inform the public whenever there’s another toxic chemical release and what it’s doing to prevent more spills.
The group has also said that the company should be required to monitor heavy metals that have been released in recent spills and cites six additional, smaller spills this year. The purpose of a larger fine against USS, according to the letter, is to deter the plant and other steelmakers from similar violations in the future.
The consent decree, filed on Nov 20 by the US Department of Justice and the State of Indiana, calls for splitting the proposed $601,242 fine evenly between the federal and state governments.
It includes requiring USS to make reimbursements for the April 2017 spill of $350,653 to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s response costs, $240,504 to the National Park Service for damages from beach closures, $12,564 for its response costs, and $27,512 to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for damage assessment costs.