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ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor Toxic Effluents

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Cyanide from ArcelorMittal leaked into Lake Michigan for days before the public was notified.

This poses a number of questions:

What are the health implications for people and children drinking the water and bathing on the beach? 

This is a serious and worrying lack of transparency and communication with potentially lethal implications, as evidenced by the 3,000 dead fish.

How can we prevent this from happening again? How can we ensure that effluent monitoring is done in a manner that is transparent, timely and easily accessible to the public, whose health is the highest priority.

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Effluents Monitoring Tool

List of effluents (and legal limits)

  1. Cyanide (limit)

  2. Ammonia

  3. ....

Transparent monitoring

​ArcelorMittal is legally mandated to monitor and report all the above effluents. The relevant information is recorded somewhere. The challenge is that this information is not easily accessible to the public. Due to this high barrier to access, most of the general public and local residents are effectively blind to this information.

In other words, there is a lack of transparency and a gap in communication. Fortunately, it is 2019 and information technology can help fill this gap.

One solution is to collect and present all the information in a single location that is easy to access, view and understand. People should be able to navigate and query this tool to learn about the effluents being released into the water and air, but also to be alerted of accidents or spills.   

The tool could take the form of a website. In particular, this should include a map or dashboard showing the latest measurements, and the ability to dig deeper into historical data etc. Some ideas include:  

  • Interactive map

  • Geo-code locations where effluents are being monitored

  • Data should be updated live (as soon as measurements are made)

  • Legal limits should be clearly stated

  • If measurement exceeds the legal limit:

    • This should be very visible, blinking on the map​

    • Automatic alerts should be emailed to mailining list

    • Residents and the anyone in the general public can request to be included in the list

Collaborative effort

The problem that we are trying to solve is a lack of transparency and communications, and as a consequence a lack of trust.​

Technology can provide a tool, but the solution can only come from all the parties working together towards a shared solution. Therefore, this platform should be more than a website or an app, it should be an opportunity to build a forum where the steel plant, the residents and the National Park can share information, voice concerns, ask questions and most importantly propose solutions that can then be implemented together.

Therefore, residents, the steel plant and the National Park should come together, bring their skills in information technology, communications, science to build a tool that can empower them to safeguard their health. 

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