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Great Lakes Article:

Toxic pollution is up in Indiana, and Lake County remains No. 1

Gary Post Tribune
June 5, 2002 

Our 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 year.

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 pounds.

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.

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