Dangerous chemicals released by a large U.S Steel factory into waterways which feed Lake Michigan have lead to the closure of four favoured surfing beaches.
As if surfing in the Great Lakes wasn’t a hostile and challenging enough experience already, with the frigid water, howling wind and lack of consistent waves, now the careless actions of a corporate giant have rendered a stretch of coastline, which has been surfed for over 20 years, too dangerous to paddle out in.
Back in April, waste water from The United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) was allowed to seep into groundwater, which subsequently flowed into the Portage area of Lake Michigan, according to the Surfrider Foundation. The wastewater contained a chemical called hexavalent chromium, which can cause fertility, child development, kidney and liver problems, as well as several types of cancer.
Despite the company’s commitment at the time to be more careful in future, a few weeks ago wastewater containing the chemical once again poured out into the waters of Portage, and now the the surf community has said enough is enough.
The Surfrider foundation sent a letter documenting their ‘intent to sue’ the US Steel Cooperation for its repeated violations of the Clean Water act. Their assessment of the problem that underpins the spills, based on their extensive research, is damning of both the company itself and those who are supposed to regulate it:
“News reports from the past several years already detail how U.S. Steel has delayed needed plant upgrades and laid off necessary maintenance workers in a deliberate strategy of cost-cutting at the expense of worker safety and the health of lakefront ecosystems. Through years of violations and poor maintenance, regulators at the state and federal levels took no meaningful action.”
Stories of companies putting profit over concern for public safety and local ecology have become so common-place, they risk becoming background noise. However it is important we stand alongside groups like SAS and the Surfrider Foundation as they continue to put pressure on both corporations and governments to do better.
Cover photo: Lucas Murnaghan // www.surfthegreats.org