Public hearing on Indiana Coke Company air pollution takes place Wednesday

The ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor complex in East Chicago is shown from the air in October, 2016. 

The public will get a chance to weigh in on the Indiana Coke Co.'s air pollution control permit renewal Wednesday.

A public hearing on request is planned at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Riley Park Recreation Center, 1005 E. Chicago Ave. in East Chicago. Residents can comment about any concerns, and their remarks will be taken into consideration and made part of the official record.

Indiana Coke Co. supplies coke, a key steelmaking input to ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago. It borders many residents, including in East Chicago's environmentally troubled West Calumet neighborhood.

Environmental groups plan to be out in full force because of concerns that the company has repeatedly violated its air permit over the years.

"I believe there will be a good turn out for the public hearing," local environmentalist Carolyn Marsh said.

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The Southeast Environmental Task Force from nearby Chicago is asking for an environmental justice analysis and a schedule of compliance to address longstanding issues.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found seven violations since the last permit was issued in 2010, including that the facility released 160 excess tons of sulfur dioxide and 15.9 excess tons of particulate matter beyond what was permitted from its bypass stacks between 2005 and 2008. Many of the violations last year were because coke ovens weren't sealed properly to keep toxic gases from being released into the air, according to EPA documents.

The Community Strategy Group of East Chicago has raised concerns that long-term exposure to the emissions could cause conjunctivitis, ​dermatitis, respiratory issues and cancer.

"Epidemiologic studies of coke oven workers have​ reported an​ increase​ in​ cancer of the lung,​ trachea, bronchus,​ kidney,​ prostate, and other sites," the group said in a flier. "Animal studies have reported tumors ​of the​ lung and ​skin from inhalation ​exposure to​ coal tar. EPA has classified coke​ oven ​emissions ​as ​a​ Group​ A​ human carcinogen."

Indiana Coke Co.'s permit renewal documents can be viewed online at http://www.in.gov/apps/idem/caats/permitDetail.xhtml.


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.