Despite a national decline since 2007, two counties in northwestern Indiana have seen the highest number of toxic releases in more than a decade, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials said.
The Toxics Release Inventory national analysis released Tuesday found Lake County had 378 toxic releases in 2017, while Porter County had 134. Those are the largest amounts of on-site releases of toxins the counties have seen since 2003.
Information was collected on chemicals released into the air, water or soil from 21,500 facilities across the country. The 49 in Lake County released more than 26 million pounds of material, while the 28 in Porter County released about 3.8 million pounds of material.
The facilities with the highest number of releases in the two counties were BP Products in Whiting, Tradebe Treatment and Recycling in East Chicago, Arcelor Mittal in East Chicago, Arcelor Mittal in Burns Harbor and U.S. Steel Gary Works.
The report included an incident when U.S. Steel in Portage spilled hexavalent chromium, a potentially carcinogenic chemical, into Lake Michigan in April 2017.
On a national level, the analysis found water releases have declined 70 percent since 2003, while air releases have declined 25 percent. In addition, releases in 2017 were greater than quantities reported for 2016, but 7 percent less than releases reported for 2007.
“This year’s TRI results give proof that economic growth and an improved environment can go hand in hand,” said Alexandra Dunn, the EPA’s assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention.
About 4,000 pollution prevention controls were enacted at the facilities, Dunn said.