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ArcelorMittal Says It Has Sampled Water, Seen Improvements Since Fish-Killing Chemical Spill In Indiana

PORTAGE, Ind. (CBS) -- Steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal said it has continued sampling water in the Little Calumet River throughout the weekend after a chemical spill left hundreds of fish dead last week.

ArcelorMittal said in a statement Sunday that it has been working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Coast Guard throughout the weekend.

The company also said it has been conducting daily samplings at the two wastewater outfalls where the spills happened last week, as well as downstream samplings every quarter mile for 2.5 miles of the Little Calumet River. ArcelorMittal has also begun testing the lakeshore from Porter Beach to the westernmost extent of West Beach.

"While we are still awaiting official results from previous day's sampling events, we can confirm that the most recently available data shows that ammonia is now within permitted levels and cyanide levels have been decreasing daily and currently are significantly below the levels experienced during the initial release," ArcelorMittal said.

But the company warned that the results do not come in real time and there is a delay as the samples are processed. Still, the pattern has shown improvement since Thursday, ArcelorMittal said.

ArcelorMittal said it experienced a failure at a blast furnace water recirculation system, and wastewater containing elevated levels of ammonia and cyanide were released. ArcelorMittal said its Burns Harbor facility is permitted to discharge wastewater containing low amounts of the chemicals, the blast furnace water system failure caused acceptable limits to be exceeded.

Hundreds of fish were left dead as a direct result, and the National Parks Service shut down the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk beach area and waters out to 300 feet on Friday. The area is part of the Indiana Dunes National Park.

The Little Calumet River was also closed between Highway 149 and Highway 249.

Portage Mayor John Cannon said the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and ArcelorMittal knew of the problem on Monday, but did not inform the city until Thursday.

CBS 2 also learned that the Portage Port Authority, which is not part of city government, plans to sue ArcelorMittal.

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