A failure at the blast furnace water recirculation system at ArcelorMittal’s Burns Harbor facility in Indiana resulted in the release of wastewater containing elevated levels of ammonia and cyanide. The company was alerted to a potential problem by the sight of dead fish observed near Burns Ditch at the south end of the facility. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management estimated the release resulted in the death of 3,000 fish.
Although the Burns Harbor facility is permitted to discharge wastewater containing low amounts of ammonia and cyanide, the failure caused the facility to exceed applicable limits. The company reported the exceedances to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in accordance with permit requirements.
The recirculating system has been repaired and normal operations have resumed.
“Although sampling is ongoing, we are confident that the facility’s wastewater system is operating within normal ranges. We are working to assess any potential residual impact and are committed to demonstrating to all stakeholders that we have regained compliance through a robust monitoring process as prescribed by IDEM,” an ArcelorMittal spokesman said.
The company’s steps to return to compliance include:
• working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Coast Guard.
• Conducting daily samplings at the two impacted wastewater outfalls, plus daily downstream samplings every quarter miles for 2.5 miles on the Little Calumet River. As a precautionary measure, the company has expanded its testing along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
“ArcelorMittal knows that we have a responsibility to all stakeholders to be a trusted user of natural resources and we sincerely apologize for falling short on this responsibility. The events of the past week at Burns Harbor have concerned us all and we have been making every effort possible to address the situation and return to compliance since we became aware of the issue. We will be working hard now and in the future to restore confidence in our ability to comply with all of our environmental requirements and restore trust among all of our stakeholders, which we understand will take time.”
On Aug. 18, the company said its testing data showed ammonia amounts within permitted levels and cyanide levels had been decreasing daily, and were significantly below the levels experienced during the initial release.