IDEM admits 'Easterly's Pile' is, well, a pile

Burns Harbor: "resembles a park far more than a steel mill"

  • Image by Mike Bostock, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Burns Harbor: "resembles a park far more than a steel mill"

These days, it seems we're often noting the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's pattern of denial with regard to serious environmental concerns. Which is unfortunate, considering it's IDEM's job, ostensibly, not to ignore environmental concerns. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite.

So it's welcome news that IDEM is finally admitting (albiet rather quietly) that the massive dump site at Burns Harbor, off Lake Michigan, near the Indiana Dunes, is a problem.

As reported by Gitte Laasby, at the Post-Tribune:

the waste area at the northeast corner of ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor plant — named after Indiana Department of Environmental Management Commissioner Tom Easterly — consists of a 900 foot long and 67 feet tall pile of basic oxygen furnace sludge and rubble interspersed with burnt lime. IDEM estimates the "BOF farm" consists of 274,000 cubic yards of waste of which 16,000 cubic yards is rubble.

The waste has been dumped a couple of hundred feet from Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore longer than the six months law allows. Piles of brick and rubble have been dumped at the lakefront nearby for at least five years.

So says the IDEM in an inspection report based on visits by four IDEM staffers to the facility on March 10 and 11 and April 19. The report also contains photos of the waste. The Post-Tribune obtained the report through a public information request.

Luckily, Laasby's been on IDEM's case with regard to this issue; otherwise, there's a good chance we wouldn't know the true gravity of the situation at Burns Harbor.

You certainly wouldn't know it from ArcelorMittal's Web site. Check it out for laughs. Here's a choice morsel:

the complex resembles a park far more than a steel mill. It is not unusual to see deer crossing the tree-lined avenues that connect the mills and offices. Wildflowers and wildlife coexist comfortably with the blast furnaces and basic oxygen furnace. In addition, nearby sand dunes draw boaters and swimmers to recreational opportunities on Lake Michigan. Ever since the facility was built in 1964, it has benefited from exceptional environmental stewardship.

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