Production shut down for safety reasons at a United States Steel plant in Gary, IN, because of high carbon monoxide concentrations after an equipment malfunction.

A dust collection system for the No. 4 blast furnace failed Jan. 7 and required maintenance before normal pig iron production resumed Jan. 11, said Bob Simmons, deputy director for Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s (IDEM) northwest regional office.

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The system works as a scrubber to reduce harmful pollutants such as particles laden with heavy metals from gases before the company can recycle them for other uses. He said U.S. Steel alerted IDEM about the issues, although it wasn’t an incident that required reporting.

The company doesn’t provide status updates on operations outside of its quarterly conference call with analysts, said U.S. Steel spokeswoman Courtney Boone. United Steelworkers Local 1014 President Jerry Littles said the union is starting an internal investigation into the matter and couldn’t comment further Wednesday.

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Simmons said there were no emissions exceeding regulations to trigger a permit violation, but production did shut down for safety reasons because of the high carbon monoxide levels.

IDEM received a complaint filed Jan. 11. One anonymous source said it is difficult to believe how the dust collector failure could not have triggered an opacity violation and believes the problem may require a longer-term maintenance on the blast furnace.

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