Chesterton Tribune

Burns Harbor reverses itself, approves Mittal Steel landfill

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By VICKI URBANIK

In a 3-1 vote Tuesday, the Burns Harbor Board of Zoning Appeals reversed its June decision and granted a zoning amendment necessary for ArcelorMittal to expand its onsite solid waste landfill.

The BZA’s reversal came after Mittal filed a lawsuit against the BZA and the Town Council challenging the BZA’s June 23 landfill rejection. But with Tuesday’s vote, Mittal will now agree to withdraw its legal challenge within five days, under the terms of a settlement proposal that the BZA approved unanimously.

Because the town council was also named in Mittal’s suit, the council will be asked to approve the same settlement at a special meeting today at 6 p.m. at the town hall.

Mittal plans to expand its onsite landfill to accept materials such as blast furnace filter cake, coke oven dust, sludge and other materials classified as solid waste, some of which are being stockpiled and some of which are being landfilled off site. Mittal must also obtain a permit, which is still pending, with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for the landfill.

When asked after the meeting if the BZA’s reversal was prompted by the lawsuit, BZA attorney Charles Parkinson cited the discussion that the BZA members had at their June 23 meeting. He said Mittal submitted a detailed, 3,000 page application about the landfill that prompted many concerns and questions that were not fully answered before the BZA cast its vote.

At its July meeting, the BZA tabled approval of its findings of fact outlining the reasons why it rejected the zoning amendment, with several members saying that they still had questions about the proposal.

Parkinson said that over the course of several executive sessions and negotiations between the town and Mittal, the steelmaker agreed to a set of eight conditions, as follow:

*Mittal will inform the town if there are any significant changes to its construction plans submitted to IDEM. Those plans call for moving stockpiled materials to the landfill within three years from the start of the landfill operations and designing the leachate collection system and the stormwater pond system so that they will contain any overflow up to a 100-year rain event.

*Mittal will submit to the BZA all reports submitted to IDEM regarding the operation of the landfill.

*Mitall will be solely responsible for the construction, operation and compliance of the landfill.

*Mittal will give the Burns Harbor Building Commissioner “reasonable access” to the landfill during business hours for inspections.

*The landfill cannot accept waste from any other facility or location, but only waste streams currently existing at the Burns Harbor plant or generated there. The town building commissioner has the authority to inspect trucks entering the landfill facility to ensure this condition is being met.

*Mittal will supply the town with a copy of the permit if approved by IDEM and any permit amendments.

*Mittal is to make an annual report to the BZA regarding the amount of blast furnace filter cake landfilled and any efforts to recycle the waste.

*Mittal agrees that any violation of the town code and the conditions imposed by the BZA would be subject to a stop work order at the landfill.

Parkinson said that in his legal opinion, those conditions satisfy most of the substantive concerns raised by the BZA.

Prior to the vote, BZA member Gordon McCormick, who was absent at the June meeting and didn’t vote on the initial rejection, sought assurances that the only wastes that will be landfilled will be those generated at the Burns Harbor plant and that the BZA has the information previously lacking about the thickness of the landfill liner.

The vote to rescind the June decision, and to adopt findings of facts in support of the zoning amendment, then passed 3-1 with McCormick, Tom Marconi, and Terry Swanson voting yes and Jim Meeks voting no. Amy Zehner was absent.

A second vote, to accept the terms of the settlement proposal, then passed 4-0.

The settlement agreement includes a provision that Mittal will dismiss its lawsuit against the town within five days. Parkinson said that legal challenge essentially raised two main arguments, one of which challenged the BZA’s June decision. But Mittal also contends that when the BZA first granted the special exception allowing the landfill in 2007, the approval included the waste streams that Mittal now wants to landfill.

However, based on the comments raised in June, it is unclear if the BZA intended to allow anything other than the sludge byproduct of the mill’s wastewater treatment plant when it first granted the 2007 special exception.

Parkinson said that while Mittal will agree to withdraw its lawsuit, language in the settlement essentially allows Mittal to preserve its right to argue again that the original special exception allowed additional wastes, in the event the BZA is sued for its Tuesday decision.

No public comment was allowed at Tuesday’s meeting, but afterwards, one of the audience members who spoke against the landfill in June objected to the BZA’s reversal.

Larry Davis, a Mittal steelworker said alternative technologies exist -- even at Mittal’s own plants abroad -- to more effectively reuse and recycle steelmaking byproducts. “By building this landfill, there’s going to be less incentive that they’ll recycle,” he said.

Davis produced a Mittal publication that outlines its recycling efforts overseas, in such ways as using slag as an aggregate for concrete floors and roads and extracting iron content from the sludge byproduct. Such alternatives result in considerably less solid waste and minimal air and water pollution, Davis said.

He also said that from the workers’ perspective, the town’s decision will not only mean fewer new jobs from the landfilling operations compared to recycling operations, but also overall less job security, since Mittal is investing considerably in modernization efforts at its plants in places like India and Saudi Arabia instead of at Burns Harbor.

 

 

Posted 8/26/2009