Students Investigate U.S. Steel’s Pattern of Toxic Spills Near Lake Michigan | WBEZ
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Morning Shift

Students Investigate U.S. Steel’s Pattern of Toxic Spills Near Lake Michigan

It all started when the surfers started getting rashes. Over a year ago, a band of Great Lakes surfers, complaining of skin rashes and water they said smelled like grease, reached out to the University of Chicago’s Abrams Environmental Law Center to ask about the quality of the water in Lake Michigan’s Northwest Indiana shoreline, where several industrial factories were located. 

So the center’s director, Mark Templeton, made it an assignment for his law students: look into publicly available information on pollution of companies in Northwest Indiana. But after a major dump of toxic metal in April 2017, the professor and students zeroed in on one company: U.S. Steel. And they found that the spill wasn’t the company’s only violation. 

After filing Freedom of Information Act requests, the team found a pattern of U.S. Steel violating its permits going back as far as 2011. 

Fast forward to October 2017: newly released documents found that the same Indiana plant quietly reported another spill, but neither U.S. Steel nor federal and local environmental agents informed the public. 

Morning Shift talks to Mark Templeton, director of the Abrams Environmental Law Center at U of C, about the yearlong investigation and the lawsuit U.S. Steel may be facing in the near future.

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