Cyanide Spill Kills Fish, Closes Beaches

August 22, 2019

Last week, three thousand fish died as a result of a cyanide and ammonia spill from ArcelorMittal, a steel and mining company that has a large facility in Portage, Indiana. The spill occurred in the  Little Calumet River, a Northwestern Indiana tributary to Lake Michigan

As a result, the town of Portage’s Lakefront and Riverwalk beach area, and waters out to 300 feet in the Indiana Dunes National Park were closed by local and park service officials. Ogden Dunes, a nearby community, also closed its beaches. The National Park Service (NPS) also warned against eating fish caught in the area. 

But this was days after the spill.

Some reports show that ArcelorMittal knew about the chemical spill as early as Sunday, August 11. The public was not notified for several days. 

In the meantime, beach goers and surfers exposed to chemicals that could resulted in skin irritation. Save the Dunes hosted a coffee talk to answer questions about the incident. A group including the Portage Port Authority, Marina Shores and Dune Harbor, and various individuals is teaming up to sue ArcelorMittal for violations of the Clean Water Act. 

Spills like this are a threat to public health, clean drinking water, and wildlife in the lakes and surrounding areas. It is unacceptable that ArcelorMittal caused this damage. And, it is unacceptable that the public was not alerted in a timely manner. 

For up-to-date information about the beach closures and this story, check NPS’s website, Save the Dunes’ Facebook page, and Surfrider Chicago’s Facebook page.