Indiana Department of Environmental Management Takes Another Step Backward with U.S. Steel

Indiana Department of Environmental Management Takes Another Step Backward with U.S. Steel

By Jamie Cross, Alliance for the Great Lakes

In July, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a permit for BP to discharge 50% more pollutants into Lake Michigan from their Whiting, IN Plant. Outraged by the approval environmental groups and elected officials called on BP to eliminate increased discharges from their expansion proposal. Their quick action resulted in thousands of signatures on petitions and resolutions at the local, state and federal level being passed opposing BP’s proposal. Due to public pressure, in August BP publicly stated that it would not discharge pollutants beyond previously permitted levels – a tremendous victory for the Great Lakes and an awesome demonstration of the difference that grassroots action makes. (For how to help, visit

Environmental groups in Indiana had little time to rest after BP’s decision. Shortly afterward, the community was alerted to a permit extension application for U.S. Steel allowing them to continue to use outdated water quality standards for another five years at their Lake Michigan facility in Gary, Indiana.

In an effort to keep the pressure on IDEM to ensure that pollution discharge permits meet stringent requirements laid out by the Clean Water Act, 12 environmental groups have requested that EPA hold a public hearing to discuss U.S. Steel’s proposal. Although the company has made strides in recent years to enhance its operational efficiency and environmental compliance, it is operating under outdated wastewater standards that are a detriment to water quality, human health and aquatic life.

In written comments submitted to IDEM, the Alliance for the Great Lakes urged that U.S. Steel’s GaryWorks facility rapidly move into compliance with stricter water quality standards. Requests include:

  • Eliminating the “five-year pass” compliance schedule U.S. Steel proposes for several pollutants, including mercury, and instead requiring specific interim pollution discharge limits.
  • Requiring substantial reductions in the discharge of free cyanide, oil, grease, and thermal pollution to the Grand Calumet River (which flows into Lake Michigan).
  • Reducing stormwater runoff,which contains unknown quantities of pollution, into Lake Michigan.

Since these comments were submitted, EPA has officially objected to the U.S. Steel permit. This action legally prevents IDEM from issuing the permit and provides an opportunity for the public hearing.

Groups in the region will continue to monitor U.S. Steel’s permit application and keep a close watch on other pending permits to encourage IDEM and EPA to reduce the amount of pollutants entering Lake Michigan. As evidenced by the BP debate, the court of public opinion is an essential tool in reducing and preventing pollution from entering Lake Michigan.

To get involved, visit

Contact Jamie Cross, Alliance for the Great Lakes for more info:
(616) 850-0745 x12 or



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