BURNS HARBOR - Two environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit against ArcelorMittal accusing the steelmaker of more than 100 permit violations at its Burns Harbor steel mill. The Hoosier Environmental Council and the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center cite among the violations excessive pollution that killed 3,000 fish and closed beaches on Lake Michigan and Indiana Dunes National Park.

The groups say ArcelorMittal is in violation of the Clean Water Act by, among other things, exceeding its permit limits for cyanide and ammonia, which rendered waters unsafe for human or aquatic life. The company's Burns Harbor facility is located along the Lake Michigan shoreline near the Indiana Dunes.

Howard Learner, executive director of the ELPC, says the lawsuit calls for fines and penalties "sufficiently large to change ArcelorMittal's environmental practices and modernize the company's equipment and operations to better reduce pollution damages going forward."

The Burns Harbor mill discharges pollution into the East Arm of the Little Calumet River, which flows directly into Lake Michigan.

“In the face of this repeated, illegal damage to Lake Michigan, we can no longer just stand by and wait for the state and federal government to act,” Indra Frank, director of environmental health and water policy for the HEC, said in a news release. "The damage has to stop for the sake of everyone who gets their drinking water from the Lake; everyone who swims, fishes, or boats in the Lake; and the wildlife that make their home in the Lake."

A spokesperson for ArcelorMittal tells Inside INdiana Business it is aware of the groups' intent to sue but has not yet been served with a lawsuit.

"ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor has two permits which impose monitoring requirements and establish certain limits for pollutants regulated under those permits. Any exceedances of limits or other violations of permit requirements are reported to the state water authority.  We believe that it is the information contained in our regulatory reporting that is being referenced in the Environmental Law and Poverty Center (ELPC) Notice of Intent to sue ArcelorMittal under the Clean Water Act.

While any instance of non-compliance is concerning, we do not believe that the reported non-compliance with the permit requirements in any way reflect systemic issues. Any instances of non-compliance are investigated, and appropriate actions are taken in response. Governmental authorities are tasked with responding to permit compliance as they deem appropriate in response to the reported information. 

While the company is unable to comment on potential litigation, we remain focused on maintaining compliance and working with regulatory authorities."