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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland steel-maker Cleveland-Cliffs has agreed to pay a $3 million penalty to the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Indiana for an August 2019 discharge of wastewater containing ammonia and cyanide into a river that flows into Lake Michigan.

Cleveland-Cliffs also has agreed to transfer 127 acres of land adjacent to the Indiana National Lakeshore to a land trust for conservation, and to background sampling on the East Branch of the Little Calumet River and Lake Michigan, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The agreement comes in response to the August 2019 discharge of ammonia and cyanide-laden wastewater into the East Branch of the Little Calumet River from a steel mill in Burns Harbor, Indiana. The spill occurred when the plant was operated by ArcelorMittal, which Cleveland-Cliffs acquired in September 2020.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the spill killed about 3,000 fish, shut down public beaches on Lake Michigan, and also closed a drinking water facility. The Justice Department says the plant did not properly report the spill.

The Justice Department says Cleveland-Cliffs is taking “substantial measures” to improve its wastewater system at the plant, including a new ammonia treatment system and cyanide treatment requirements.

“Today’s settlement with Cleveland-Cliffs appropriately penalizes the company for its significant violations and requires extensive actions by the company to prevent future pollution,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a statement. “The cyanide and ammonia reductions will result in a cleaner Lake Michigan and the public will be kept informed of potential future spills.”

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