pollution is up in Indiana, and Lake County remains No.
June 5, 2002
opinion: IDEM puts a spin on the figures, but finding
ways to reduce them would be better.
Although it acquired a strong
challenger in 2000, Lake County retained its unwelcome
ranking as Indiana’s No. 1 air polluter.
The challenge came from Spencer
County, in the deep southwest pocket of the state, where
an AK Steel plant had its first full year of operation
in 2000. As a result, Spencer County had 16.5 million
pounds of toxic releases during the year — up sharply
from the 9.9 million pounds produced there the previous
Toxic releases in Lake County
in 2000 totaled 16.89 million pounds, actually a slight
drop from the prior year’s 16.91 million pounds.
But U.S. Steel’s Gary Works maintained
its pre-eminence as the single greatest source of toxic
pollutants. It released 14.5 million pounds of toxics
into the air. AK Steel was second with 12.2 million pounds.
No. 6 was Bethlehem Steel Corp.’s
Burns Harbor Division with 1,408,826 pounds. That was
nearly 300,000 pounds under Bethlehem’s 1999 figure.
In all, Hoosier industries released
3 million more pounds of toxic chemicals into the environment
in 2000 than in 1999. The total for 2000 was 142 million
That’s a lot of polluting by
anybody’s measure, but an official from the Indiana Department
of Environmental Management managed to put what might
be called a positive spin on it.
“Given that this is the 2000
reporting year and our economy was moving along at quite
a clip and there was only a 2.1 percent increase, I would
say that this is a good report,” said Jim Mahern, assistant
commissioner with IDEM’s Office of Pollution Prevention
and Technical Assistance.
That seems kind of like Marshal
Wyatt Earp declaring that given the fact that things were
booming in Dodge City, spurring a significant influx of
ne’er-do-wells, the slight increase in bloodshed on Main
Street was actually a victory for law and order.
But since the Indiana economy
in 2001 was not moving at quite a clip, presumably that
will be reflected in a lower level of toxic pollutants
— and a spin of another sort from IDEM in its report a
year from now.
Meanwhile, in what remains of
2002, maybe there can be a renewed effort on the part
of the state, environmental groups and manufacturers to
work cooperatively toward ways of achieving a meaningful
reduction in pollution levels.