One Mile of Grand Calumet River Gets $33 Million Cleanup

HAMMOND, Indiana, October 27, 2008 (ENS) - Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Department of Natural Resources are joining forces in a $33 million effort to restore a little over one mile of the Grand Calumet River.

The plan calls for the cleanup of 91,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from a 1.1 mile stretch of the river between Columbia and Hohman Avenues in Hammond, followed by the placement of a cap over the dredged area.

"State, local and federal agencies are collaborating to remediate the contaminated sediment that has long been in the river," said IDEM Commissioner Tom Easterly. "This cleanup will lead to increased use of the Grand Calumet and improved quality of life for residents and visitors alike."

Work will be coordinated with a combined sewer overflow removal by the Hammond Sanitary District that also will result in contaminated sediment being removed from the river.

The Grand Calumet River originates in the east end of Gary, Indiana, and flows 13 miles through the cities of Gary, East Chicago and Hammond.

Today, 90 percent of the river's flow starts as municipal and industrial discharges, cooling and process water and stormwater overflows. Although discharges of pollution have been reduced, a number of contaminants in the sediment continue to harm the river environment.

The river runs through one of the most heavily industrialized areas in the nation and the sediment contains elevated levels of heavy metals, PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and pesticides such as DDT.

The river, canal and harbor have been formally identified as an Area of Concern on the Great Lakes by the International Joint Commission.

Areas of concern are severely degraded sites within the Great Lakes where there is significant pollution. Polluted sediment is the reason many Great Lakes fish are not safe to eat in unlimited quantities. It also harms aquatic life and habitat and pollutes sources of drinking water.

"The goal of the Grand Calumet dredging project is to remediate and restore areas of contaminated sediment, in order to provide many beneficial uses that are currently not available in the river," Easterly said.

The dredging project is the seventh such effort funded by the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which will provide $21.5 million, with the remaining $11.6 million coming from a fund managed by the Natural Resource Trustees.

The trustees are the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Trustees are authorized to use non-federal restoration funds from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration program to restore natural resources injured by environmental contaminants.

"EPA has completed five successful cleanups to date around the Great Lakes under the Legacy Act and is very pleased to begin another in northwest Indiana," said EPA Regional Administrator Lynn Buhl.

Congress passed and the president signed the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2002 to address the problem of contaminated sediment in American areas of concern on the Great Lakes.

Buhl said, "In the last two weeks, Congress and President Bush reauthorized the Act and we look forward to continuing the important work of cleaning up Great Lakes’ rivers and harbors, including the Grand Calumet River."

{Photo: Grand Calumet River in Hammond, Indiana courtesy U.S. EPA}

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