The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent more objections to U.S. Steel Gary Works' wastewater permit Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a dozen environmental groups in Indiana and Illinois sent a joint letter to the EPA to request the agency hold a public hearing on its permit objections.
EPA sent a second letter to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management Tuesday, saying the draft permit indicates that IDEM is allowing the company to increase its discharges of chromium without proof that the pollution would not degrade water quality.
"We're not certain based on the information we've seen if the permit does or does not authorize an increase in pollutants," said Steve Jann, deputy chief of the NPDES programs branch at EPA Region 5. "Indiana could provide additional information to us to clarify."
The company has maintained there are no increases in permit limits. IDEM has to address EPA's objections before a final permit can be issued.
A dozen environmental groups teamed to request a public hearing on EPA's objections Wednesday. They hope they can get the EPA to raise additional objections and make IDEM revise the permit further.
"We hope it is another opportunity to have a closer look at the permit before it's issued. This is not BP," said Tom Anderson, executive director of Save the Dunes Council, referring to the public outcry after the permit was issued for the Whiting refinery.
Among the groups that signed the request to the EPA are Save the Dunes Council, the Hoosier Environmental Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Indiana Wildlife Federation, the Indiana division of the Izaak Walton League of America, the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, Sierra Club-Hoosier Chapter, Alliance for the Great Lakes, League of Women Voters of Northwest Indiana, the grassroots group People Opposed to Wastewater Without Enough Review (POWWER), Environment Illinois and the Legal Environmental Aid Foundation of Indiana.
Ann Alexander, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the groups support EPA's objections but hope to expand them.
"Usually, the EPA does nothing, which is more common than it used to be, or they have back conversations with IDEM that don't involve public comment," Alexander said.
Whether the public and interest groups get to bring up aspects of the permit not addressed by EPA's objections is still uncertain.
Legislators advise EPA
Several legislators, including U.S. Sens. Richard Durbin and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and U.S. Reps. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Pete Visclosky (D-Merrill-ville) supported the groups' request with letters to the EPA.
In their letter, the Illinois group says the proposed permit would have "disturbing consequences for the health of Lake Michigan and the nation's commitment to the Clean Water Act."
Visclosky also joined in Wednesday with his own letter. It included a poke at the Illinois delegation with Visclosky accusing "some" of using rhetoric and manipulating the review process for "political gain."
"Press conferences and political grandstanding will not purify the waters of Lake Michigan, but sound policy, investment in new technology, and all parties working together toward this shared goal will," Visclosky wrote.
Contact Gitte Laasby at 648-2183 or email@example.com.