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Report: ArcelorMittal Missed Warning Signs Prior To Indiana Cyanide Spill

CHICAGO (CBS) -- More trouble for the steel plant that leaked toxic chemicals killing thousands of fish, and shutting down part of the Indiana Dunes.

CBS 2 has learned that the company ArcelorMittal missed warning signs a week before the spill. Tim McNicholas has the latest from Portage, Indiana.

Arcelormittal is guilty of seven violations. That's according to a report from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

That means the company will likely face steep fines. And the state is now deciding how much the company should pay.

Around 3,000 fish were killed by a cyanide and ammonia nitrogen spill in a river that feeds into Lake Michigan. It was a sight, and smell, that disgusted people working and relaxing in portage.

"After we got outta the water, a friend of mine that I was surfing with got a notification that what had happened," said Phil Grenchik.

ArcelorMittal publicly owned up to the spill on August 15.

Now a report from the state says there were warning signs more than a week earlier...when a water-damaged battery system failed on August 4.

The report said "there was no alarm in place to alert operators that the battery ceased recharging."

That same battery system had more problems on August 11th, causing more equipment failures and, ultimately, the spill of hundreds of pounds of cyanide over the next few days.

The steel giant didn't mention the equipment problems to the state until August 14, and even then, the company told the state it "did not believe that the issue was impacting its discharges."

"The damage could have been mitigate," said Natalie Johnson, an environmental activist with the nonprofit Save the Dunes. "Actions could have been taken a lot sooner and a lot more efficiently."

The company finally reported the spill to the state on the August 15. ArcelorMittal told CBS 2 in August that it didn't tell the state right away because they were waiting on definitive test results.



But the state's report said from August 12 to August 14, the company's own screenings showed higher cyanide readings than usual at the company's secondary wastewater treatment facility.

The state said it spoke with the company on the 12th and 14th, but ArcelorMittal did not disclose those cyanide screenings or any cyanide issues until the 15th.

CBS 2 reached out to ArcelorMittal but has yet to receive a response.

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