Oil Leak At U.S. Steel Continues String Of Chemical Spills In Northwest Indiana

Sep 10, 2019

U.S. Steel’s Midwest Plant in Indiana
Credit Galina Ovtcharova & Alexei Ovtcharov / Fotki

U.S. Steel had yet another oil leak on Friday. An official with the northwest Indiana company says it found a “light, intermittent oil sheen” near one of its pipes that discharges into Lake Michigan waterways. 

This comes just weeks after another leak from U.S. Steel and a chemical spill from ArcelorMittal that killed 3,000 fish. Residents and environmentalists are hoping this won’t become “the new normal.” 

Natalie Johnson is the executive director of the environmental group Save the Dunes. She says big spills in the recent past — like U.S. Steel's spill of the cancer-causing chemical hexavalent chromium — have put people in the area on high alert.

“It's very possible that there are other incidences on a much smaller scale that happen more common than what Save the Dunes or the public is really aware of,” Johnson says.

Scott Lehmann is the town council president at Ogden Dunes. He says these recent oil spills have coated beaches in the area and polluted Lake Michigan.

The oil and chemical spills have also forced Indiana American Water’s treatment facility in Ogden Dunes to shut down twice. Lehmann says it not only supplies water to towns in northwest Indiana, but to other Great Lakes states.

“It’s not just a concern for our town, it should be a concern for everybody,” he says.

Lehmann worries that if these industrial companies aren’t held accountable, the spills will keep happening.

Until the water near Ogden Dunes is safe, Indiana American Water customers will get their water from an uptake in Gary.

U.S. Steel says the oil has been contained and that it’s investigating the source of the leak. Both the company and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management refused to make anyone available for an interview.

READ MORE: State Investigating, Overseeing Cleanup Of Oil Discharge Into The White River  

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.