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EPA in Indiana

U. S. Steel Corporation Consent Decree

Nov. 20, 2019 - The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , the National Park Service (NPS) of the United States Department of the Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce; and the State of Indiana (State), on behalf of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (Governments), have jointly filed a motion to enter the revised consent decree to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and other federal and state statutes by U. S. Steel at its Midwest Plant in northwest Indiana.  

After lodging the proposed consent decree in April 2018, the Governments received approximately 2,700 public comments, including extensive comments from the City of Chicago and the Surfrider Foundation (plaintiff intervenors in the Governments’ action).  The public comments are specifically addressed in the United States’ Response to Comments attached to the memorandum in support of the Governments’ motion to enter the decree.  

Having taken those comments into account, the Governments, with the concurrence of U. S. Steel, have revised the proposed decree to strengthen and broaden U. S. Steel’s public and stakeholder notification procedures in the event of a spill or release to ground, soil or water.  The revised decree also includes an environmentally beneficial project to be overseen by Indiana that requires water quality testing and reporting by U. S. Steel of pollutants at several shore locations along Lake Michigan near the Indiana Dunes National Park, at an estimated cost of $600,000 over three years.

U. S. Steel has already complied with several requirements of the proposed decree that was lodged in April 2018, including enhanced daily wastewater sampling, even though the decree has not been in effect.  The proposed consent decree would also require U. S. Steel to pay a civil penalty of $601,242, to be split evenly between the United States and the State.  In addition, the decree requires U. S. Steel to fully reimburse EPA’s response costs ($350,653), the NPS’s response costs ($12,564) and calculation of damages resulting from beach closures ($240,504), and NOAA’s natural resource damage assessment costs ($27,512) – all incurred in connection with a hexavalent chromium spill at the plant in April 2017.  

The Governments appreciate the role that the City of Chicago and the Surfrider Foundation have played in the Governments’ action and in providing constructive comments on the proposed (and revised) consent decree.   The decree resolves the bulk of the violations alleged by the City of Chicago and the Surfrider Foundation in their separate citizen suit complaint against U. S. Steel. 

Once the decree is entered, all of the decree’s requirements, including implementation of key operation and maintenance plans and an improved wastewater process monitoring system, will be enforceable by the Governments as an order of the Court.  When fully implemented, the decree is expected to help prevent future spills such as the April 2017 spill, and to achieve the decree’s objective of promoting U. S. Steel’s compliance with the Clean Water Act and related requirements.  In addition, the State environmentally beneficial project will result in a significant public health benefit to the communities near the plant and to those who use the popular Indiana Dunes National Park for recreation.

U.S. Steel Clean Water Act Settlement Resources

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