Chesterton Tribune



IDEM questions integrity of ArcelorMittal lab analysis

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The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has notified ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor of multiple “concerns” noted during three compliance inspections in November, following the fish-kill in August caused by releases of cyanide and ammonia into the East Branch of the Little Calumet River.

The inspections were conducted on Nov. 7-8 and Nov. 27.

Among them--according to an IDEM letter dated Jan. 6--is ArcelorMittal’s laboratory “practice” of re-analyzing water samples in which initial analysis indicated “permit effluent limit exceedance” and then “using the results of the re-analysis to re-calculate or replace results, including those already reported to IDEM.”

IDEM notes in the Jan. 6 letter that this practice is not allowable, for a number of reasons:

--“There is no justification for rescinding a violation that is based on a result obtained via analysis of a representative, validly collected sample, analyzed using an approved analytical method, that has passed all quality assurance/quality control checks.”

--ArcelorMittal’s pollution discharge permit does not allow the company to re-analyze a sample for which a valid result has been obtained and then “use that result in place of or along with the initial, valid analytical result.”

--“The practice is selective, as only samples for which initial analysis indicates a violation are re-analyzed, and therefore cannot be viewed as a general added layer of quality assurance/quality control.”

--And, finally, the “practice undermines that integrity of compliant results that are based upon one analysis of a given sample. . . . ArcelorMittal’s self-monitoring program is either capable of generating valid results based upon one analysis of a given sample or it is not.”

Unknown Source of

Ammonia and Cyanide

IDEM also expressed the concern that “an unpermitted wastewater stream is entering Lake Michigan through Outfall 002,” based on “periodic low-level detections” of ammonia and cyanide between Sept. 24 and Oct. 24

Although ArcelorMittal personnel have been sampling at several manholes in an attempt to discover the source of the ammonia and cyanide, those personnel “stated that they have not yet determined the source of the cyanide and ammonia at Outfall 002,” IDEM stated.

IDEM added that the discharge of both of those chemicals “is not in conformity” with ArcelorMittal’s pollution discharge permit.

Unknown Source of Water

On Nov. 7, IDEM staff observed a surfacing of water near a drain structure north of the C Thickener. That water appeared to be surfacing not from the drain structure itself but from the north side of it, and then flowing “by gravity, into an adjacent recently dug diked area, indicating the water surge was expected or anticipated.”

“On-site staff were unable to identify the source of the water, though seal water was suspected,” IDEM stated. “On-site staff were uncertain as to where the drain discharges. At the time of the writing of the report, there has been no definitive answer as to the source of the water or to where the drain discharges.”

Historical Limit Violations

In addition, IDEM found many self-reported violations--nearly all of them at Outfall 001--between July 2017-August 2019 in a wide variety of parameters: temperature, ammonia nitrogen, phenol, oil and grease, free cyanide, and total cyanide.

IDEM accordingly rated ArcelorMittal’s “Effluent Limits Compliance” as “unsatisfactory.”


IDEM concluded its letter to ArcelorMittal by stating that its concerns are being referred to the agency’s Enforcement Section.



Posted 1/9/2020





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