PORTER, IND. — The Indiana Dunes National Park reopened the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk’s beach Thursday afternoon. The beach was closed after the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) responded to a reported fish kill last week when a blast furnace failure at ArcelorMittal spilled toxic levels of cyanide and ammonia into the Little Calumet River. After the initial spill, a second smaller oil spill was also identified by U.S. Steel, who promptly cleaned the affected area.
IDEM reports that there’s been no detection of cyanide or any other hazardous chemicals at any of their 12 sampling locations in the East Arm of the Little Calumet River or along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, including Ogden Dunes and West Beach. After three days of confirmed tests, the National Park Service (NPS) reopened the beach to the public. A detailed map and water sampling reports can be viewed using this link: https://www.in.gov/idem/cleanwater/2576.htm
The Indiana Dunes, which stretches along the southern coast of Lake Michigan, contains both the Indiana Dunes National Park and Indiana Dunes State Park, both of which are currently open to the public. The Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk beach, one of eight beaches inside the Indiana Dunes National Park and one of nine total, was the only national park beach closed due to the chemical spill. According to both IDEM and the NPS, the other eight beaches in the Indiana Dunes area remained safe and open to the public during the contamination.
Bruce Rowe, the Public Information Officer for the Indiana Dunes National Park explained that the National Park was never fully closed, even the trails at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk remained open to the public during the beach closure. Rowe worked with Indiana Dunes Tourism on Tuesday to share a video addressing public safety concerns, saying, “Here at Indiana Dunes we have over 15,000 acres of park and 15 miles of beachfront. The only beach area that [was closed was] the Portage Lakefront waters.”
Indiana Dunes Tourism (IDT), the official marketing organization for the Indiana Dunes area, continued to update visitors and locals with information during the spill to ensure the Indiana Dunes area remained safe, welcoming, and fun. The Indiana Dunes remains a natural wonder and urban oasis that co-exists with big industry. Local officials, including IDEM, NPS, and the Indiana DNR, will continue to monitor and manage the natural resources at the Indiana Dunes to ensure everyone who visits remains safe and informed.
Questions about the spill and its potentially harmful effects should be directed to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions on local drinking water quality should be referred to the individual water provider.