Dredging wetlands on the Calumet River. | Photo courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Updated: October 26, 2013 6:35AM
HAMMOND — Efforts to clean up Grand Calumet River between Cline and Kennedy avenues since the beginning of August has remediated over 75,400 cubic yards of sediment to date.
As part of a presentation at Purdue University Calumet, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency coordinator Scott Ireland discussed the multiple steps taken to clean the river.
The project is expected to clean 1.15 million cubic yards of toxic sediment within the 1.8 mile stretch of river.
Ireland also highlighted the next steps in the cleanup, including cleaning from Hohman Avenue to the Indiana-Illinois state line, expected to begin in 2014, and other plans for the river through East Chicago, and between Cline and a section already remediated by U.S. Steel.
Ireland said efforts to clean the river resulted in a “perfect storm” among organizations and industries, as well as a settlement providing local funding to help match federal dollars.
“People who don’t need to work together started coming together and finding ways to work together,” Ireland said. “It’s really because a group of people got together and wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Ireland said if the pace of work continues, the Grand Calumet River region could be removed from the federal Area of Concerns list within a decade.
Kay Nelson, who formally worked with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, recalls hearing the first presentation on the work back in 1996, which included professionals like Ireland showing the work needed to delist the region’s river.
“I remember telling them it couldn’t be done,” Nelson said, “and they proved me wrong. I’ve never been so proud to be wrong in my life.”
A video message from U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky stressed the importance of environmental stewardship, and how it helps to strengthen and diversify the region’s economy.
“I fear that if our landscape continues to be marred by a lifeless waterway,” Visclosky said, “we will continue to lose the youth of our region and their talent and vibrant energy.”
Ireland said he would want to work with local agencies to determine the exact economic benefits of the region.