Congressman Peter J. Roskam (R-IL) today sent the following letter to Mary A. Gade, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, as the agency held a public hearing on its objections to a proposed permit for the U.S. Steel Corporation's pollution discharge into Lake Michigan.
This October, the EPA blocked implementation of a draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management that would allow the continued dumping of several pollutants, including mercury, lead, cyanide, ammonia and a cancer-causing chemical called benzo(a)pyrene into Lake Michigan, which happens to be the source of drinking water for more than 30 million Americans.
Text of letter below:
Dear Ms. Gade,
As you know and appreciate, the Great Lakes are the world's largest freshwater system and serve as a source of drinking water, food, jobs and recreation for more than 40 million Americans. Indeed, my constituents and I realize all of these benefits due to our close proximity to Lake Michigan.
Today, I am writing to express my appreciation for your holding of a public hearing regarding the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the Gary Works facility of the United States Steel Corporation in Gary, Indiana. It is my hope that we can work together to ensure the health of Lake Michigan is maintained and even enhanced.
Much good work has been done under the leadership of your office to reduce the overall levels of pollution in the Great Lakes, but the significance of the Great Lakes as a public resource requires our continued diligence to guarantee compliance with the antidegredation requirements of the Clean Water Act.
Specifically, I want to highlight my support for your investigation into and resolution of two deep concerns with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's (IDEM) draft permit:
-The Clean Water Act requires compliance with discharge provisions and permits as soon as possible, whereas the draft maintains a varied structure of delayed implementation. It is important that compliance schedules are not unnecessarily delayed; any family in my district turning on the faucet for a drink of water knows this.
-Further, the draft permit does not contain wastewater limits for a number of pollutants that Indiana has determined to have a "reasonable potential" to violate its state water quality standards. This, again, is unacceptable. In an issue with such bearing on the public health and well-being, it is imperative that we advance our restoration efforts, not degrade the condition of the Great Lakes even further.
The spirit of the Clean Water Act requires that we seek to develop our natural resources in a way that will benefit generations to come. Over recent months, the public voice has swelled against increased pollutant discharge levels into the Great Lakes under NPDES permits, reflecting a widespread care and concern for the Great Lakes.
The draft permit contained a number of objectionable provisions, and I appreciate your attentiveness to the many who expressed a desire to bring the permit under greater public scrutiny. Your action, particularly in prohibiting the enactment of the draft permit before greater public scrutiny could be applied, will do much to serve the quality of the lives of the people of Illinois' 6th Congressional District, and all those in the Great Lakes region.
Thank you, again, for your consideration. I look forward to continuing our partnership to enhance the quality of our Great Lakes.