Comment on U.S. Steel - Gary Work NPDES Permit Renewal to Protect Lake Michigan's Waters
Save the Dunes is calling on its members and supporters to submit their comments to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to strengthen the United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) Gary facility's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. A strong NPDES permit ensures clean waters in Northwest Indiana. Your concerns and comments are important to this essential public process.
Save the Dunes has joined partnering organizations for review of the draft permit and is primarily concerned about the strictness of its contents. Your comments can help echo this message, as well as help IDEM understand that this issue is important to you. Feel free to use our sample comment letter as a template.
Sample Comment Letter:
Re: U.S. Steel Gary Works Draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit No. IN0000281
Dear Mr. Hamblin:
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), must apply the most stringent effluent limits for pollutants discharged by U.S. Steel’s Gary Works (USS) facility into the Grand Calumet River and Lake Michigan to ensure compliance with Indiana’s water quality standards. The residents and abundant wildlife in Northwest Indiana depend on your ability to do so.
With this in mind, I write to urge that the IDEM reconsider its plan to renew all of the variances for mercury pollution at the USS facility, as proposed in the draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit (NPDES; No. IN0000281). For the past seven years, IDEM has been granting variances which allow USS to discharge mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin, at multiple outfalls at the facility. The concentration of mercury in these wastewater discharges continues to exceed the applicable water quality standards established by IDEM many years ago. With these variances, the draft NPDES permit fails to put USS on a pathway to compliance and should be revised to do so – either through renewed investigation of mercury technology controls or through more stringent Pollution Minimization Program Plans.
U.S. Steel’s mercury pollution is discharged by the facility either directly into Lake Michigan or the Grand Calumet River. Mercury is highly toxic and the adverse health impacts from ingestion of mercury are well-established. Mercury bioaccumulates in fish that are caught and consumed by people of this region. Children born to mothers who have ingested even tiny amounts of mercury may exhibit motor difficulties, sensory problems or cognitive deficits. IDEM should be committed to reducing mercury exposure resulting from wastewater discharges, and should not continue to grant streamlined mercury variances for USS.
I further urge IDEM to provide a clear explanation for any backsliding of carry-over limits for conventional, toxic and non-conventional pollutants in the draft NPDES permit. IDEM is charged with applying the most stringent effluent limitations available to protect Indiana’s water quality and must indicate what exceptions were granted to provide less stringent effluent limitations in the draft permit than in the previous permit.
Thank you for your consideration of these comments and for all that you do to protect the Grand Calumet River and Lake Michigan from water pollution.