Documents: U.S. Steel sought to keep chemical spill secret

PORTAGE — Environmentalists are questioning why the public wasn’t notified about an October chemical spill into a Lake Michigan tributary that U.S. Steel asked Indiana regulators to keep confidential.

Documents released by the University of Chicago’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic show U.S. Steel’s Portage plant in northwest Indiana released 56.7 pounds (25.7 kilograms) of chromium on Oct. 25. That’s nearly double the plant’s allowable daily release of the potentially cancer-causing chemical.

A company official wrote to Indiana regulators six days later requesting “confidential treatment under all applicable statutes.”

The plant released nearly 300 pounds (135 kilograms) of hexavalent chromium in April, prompting the closure of beaches.

U.S. Steel says it’s working to ensure there’s no environmental impact from the October spill. The Indiana agency says it’s reviewing whether proper notification procedures were followed.