Chicago local news

Indiana Dunes National Park Beaches Re-Open After Cyanide Spill

Indiana Dunes National Park Beaches Re Open After Cyanide Spill

Beaches at the Indiana Dunes National Park have re-opened after a cyanide spill caused a massive fish kill earlier this month. 

Beaches at the Indiana Dunes National Park have re-opened after a cyanide spill caused a massive fish kill earlier this month. 

According to the Indiana Dunes Tourism service, the beaches re-opened after Thursday afternoon after a series of water tests showed no detection of cyanide or any other hazardous chemicals in the Little Calumet River or along Lake Michigan beaches. 

After the spill, which occurred earlier this month, the park’s Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk beaches were closed and swimming was prohibited in the water. 

An estimated 3,000 fish were killed after the spill, which occurred when a cyanide leak at ArcelorMittal sent chemicals into a tributary of Lake Michigan. The steel factory’s owners and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management were criticized for failing to report the leak until several days after the water in the Little Calumet River was impacted by the cyanide release. 

The steel factory admitted to leaking the chemicals last week, and blamed the exposure at its Burns Harbor facility to a “failure at the blast furnace water recirculation system,” a spokesperson for ArcelorMittal said at the time.

Although the state’s Department of Environmental Management responded as early as Aug. 12 to a report of “distressed fish” in the east branch of the river, the public was not notified of a chemical leak until Aug. 15, Portage Mayor John Cannon said in a statement. Cannon blamed the steel factory and state officials for withholding details about the leak.

An ArcelorMittal spokesperson said daily tests would be conducted to monitor water safety after the spill. 

“ArcelorMittal remains committed to transparency with our stakeholders,” the spokesperson said. “We are deeply saddened to hear of the 3,000 fish estimated by IDNR that were killed as a result of the incident and are working collaboratively with governmental agencies and other stakeholders to address the impacts that occurred.”

The dead fish included panfish, shad, channel catfish, bass and walleye, the environmental department said. The department said that the public utility company Indiana American Water has not detected cyanide in its water, and will continue monitoring water at its Ogden Dunes treatment facility.