Save the Dunes president rallies residents to save the lakes
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent March 21, 2012 10:02PM
Updated: April 23, 2012 11:38AM
HAMMOND — Save the Dunes President Jeannette Neagu truly believes everyone, from government officials on down, really does care about the health and future sustainability of the Great Lakes and Lake Michigan in particular.
She also suspects that municipal administrations really would rather the public didn’t know just how much raw sewage is pumped into its tributaries. It’s why Neagu has made it her mission to rally everyone she knows to act as their own lobbyist.
Most people know many invasive species are introduced into the ecosystem, she told a small group from the League of Women Voters during a meeting at Woodmar United Methodist Church on Wednesday evening. Those species, she said, are introduced at a rate of one new one about every 28 weeks, and once they have gotten in, they are near impossible to remove.
At least $5 billion has been spent trying to correct the problems, and the Army Corps of Engineers has been asked to conduct a study to cut off Great Lakes tributaries to the south, she said, but Illinois and the Northwest Indiana Forum have opposed cutting them off because the block would occur near the Des Plaines River and would hamper shipping commerce.
But the raw sewage is the real eye-opener: In 2010, the Gary Sanitary District dumped 313.5 million gallons, Neagu said, and it wasn’t the worst offender. That honor went to Hammond, which dumped more than 2.2 billion gallons of untreated water. East Chicago came in second place, with 517.5 million gallons.
“When rain is contained on the north end of Lake County, the cities do a decent job of handling the water,” said Tim Schilling, of Hammond, who as a younster used to watch the sewage flow from pipes into the Little Calumet River. “It’s when it’s raining in north and south county at the same time that the treatment plants can’t handle it.”
In total, 18 Indiana cities and towns in total dump into Lake Michigan, compared with the state of Michigan, of which four dump into it. Combine that with Chicago, which handles water for 60 suburbs, and it’s no wonder beaches are closed more often than not.
Municipalities have a hard time following mandates when they have no money, she said. People have got to talk to everyone they can to get their administrations behind putting the lake first.
“You’re not here as an audience; you live in Lake County, so you have a major responsibility to keep it clean,” Neagu said.