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Mayor Emanuel Demands Answers from US Steel for Dumping a Hazardous Material into Lake Michigan

(CHICAGO) A statement from Mayor Emanuel on Thursday calls on US Steel to take responsibility for dumping hexavalent chromium (Cr6+) into Burns Waterway on Tuesday. The waterway leads into Lake Michigan from the US Steel facility in Portage, Indiana.

“The fact that these dangerous chemicals have not reached Chicago’s water supply is simply due to good luck, and not good actions by U.S. Steel. We cannot and will not tolerate careless conduct by companies that could threaten the health and safety of our residents,” said Mayor Emanuel.

“U.S. Steel must immediately explain how they allowed a dangerous chemical into a Lake Michigan tributary where it could harm millions of people in Indiana and Illinois, and what they are doing to ensure this never happens again. At the same time, this incident is a warning to us all that if the Trump administration’s plan to cripple the EPA is enacted, there will be no one left to protect residents from bad actors like U.S. Steel.”

According to OSHA, the following are possible effects from hexavalent chromium:

  • lung cancer in workers who breathe airborne
    hexavalent chromium
  • irritation or damage to the nose, throat, and
    lung (respiratory tract) if hexavalent chromium
    is breathed at high levels
  • irritation or damage to the eyes and skin if
    hexavalent chromium contacts these organs in
    high concentrations

It is also stated that hexavalent chromium can cause a non-allergic skin irritation with direct contact to the skin, which develops as small, rounded sores which heal slowly and leave scars. This is the cause for the beach closings in Northwest Indiana and the Indiana Dunes since the spill on Tuesday.

At this time, tap water remains safe to drink in the city of Chicago.