EPA to hold public hearing on U.S. Steel draft permit

U.S. EPA Region 5 will hold a public hearing on its objections to Indiana's draft wastewater discharge permit for U.S. Steel's Gary Works. EPA raised objections to certain parts of Indiana's permit in two letters to the state last month. EPA's objections must be resolved before the permit can be issued.

EPA plans to hold the hearing in northwest Indiana in mid-December. A formal public notice announcing the date, time and location will be issued at least 30 days prior to the hearing date.

"EPA has decided to hold this hearing because U.S. Steel Gary Works is one of the largest steel mills in the country and there is tremendous public interest in how it affects the environment," said EPA Regional Administrator Mary A. Gade. "U.S. Steel discharges wastewater into the Grand Calumet River, part of an Area of Concern on the Great Lakes and a high priority for EPA."

EPA has received requests for a hearing from dozens of concerned citizens in Indiana and Illinois. Elected officials including Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, senators Richard Durbin and Barack Obama of Illinois; senators Richard G. Lugar and Evan Bayh of Indiana; representatives Danny Davis, Rahm Emanuel, Luis Gutierrez, Mark Kirk, Bobby Rush and Peter Roskam of Illinois, Rep. Peter Visclosky of Indiana, representatives Fred Upton and Vernon Ehlers of Michigan; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; and Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley also requested a hearing.

The following 12 environmental and public interest groups also requested a hearing: Legal Environmental Aid Foundation of Indiana Inc., Save the Dunes Council, Hoosier Environmental Council, National Resources Defense Council, Indiana Wildlife Federation, Indiana Division of the Izaac Walton League of America, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Sierra Club-Hoosier Chapter, Alliance for the Great Lakes, League of Women Voters of Northwest Indiana, People Opposed to Wastewater Without Enough Review and Environment Illinois.

EPA regulations allow for public comment and hearings on EPA objections in certain situations before the Agency determines whether to reaffirm, modify or withdraw its objections. In light of the substantial public interest in this matter, EPA also welcomes additional comments on matters that may go beyond EPA's objections.

The public also will be able to submit written comments at the hearing and during a public comment period. EPA's objection letters are available at http://www.epa.gov/region5/. More information on the hearing, comment period and how to submit comments will soon be posted there.

"Extensive efforts have been made in recent years - including dredging by U.S. Steel - to clean up pollutants in the Grand Cal and EPA wants to ensure that discharges into the river meet all federal requirements," added Regional Administrator Gade.

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