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City's Water Is Safe Despite 'Careless' Spill By Indiana Company, Rahm Says

By Heather Cherone | April 13, 2017 5:13pm | Updated on April 14, 2017 7:41am
 One of the cribs in Lake Michigan
One of the cribs in Lake Michigan
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Flickr Creative Commons/Dahai Z

CITY HALL — Chicago's water remains safe to drink after a chemical spill in a tributary of Lake Michigan, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday.

U.S. Steel Corporation Tuesday spilled hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen, into Burns Ditch, a tributary of Lake Michigan in Portage, Indiana. The spill closed beaches around the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, officials said.

"The fact that these dangerous chemicals have not reached Chicago's water supply is simply due to good luck, and not good actions by U.S. Steel," Emanuel said in a statement. "We cannot and will not tolerate careless conduct by companies that could threaten the health and safety of our residents.”

Emanuel demanded that U.S. Steel officials "explain how they allowed a dangerous chemical into a Lake Michigan tributary where it could harm millions of people in Indiana and Illinois, and what they are doing to ensure this never happens again."

After the spill, Chicago officials ordered additional testing of the city's drinking water but found no trace of the chemical near where water is collected for treatment, said a statement from Gary Litherland, a spokesman for the Department of Water Management.

The additional testing will continue near the 68th Street water intake crib every two hours for the foreseeable future, said officials with the Department of Water Management.

Erin DiPietro, a spokeswoman for U.S. Steel, declined to comment on the mayor's comments, but in a statement the company said the source of the spill had been identified and repaired and pledged to work "cooperatively with the appropriate agencies and entities."