EAST CHICAGO | Long-delayed dredging of a polluted industrial waterway which runs through the heart of East Chicago is scheduled to begin this week.
The first bucketfuls of contaminated sediment should be removed from the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal today or Tuesday, said Mike Nguyen, project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
More than a century old, the man-made channel connects industries in East Chicago and Whiting with Lake Michigan, and has accumulated so many toxic and cancer-causing substances as to be considered the most polluted in the Great Lakes by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Army Corps plans to remove some 4.6 million cubic yards of sediment from the harbor and canal, and permanently store the material in a 186-acre confined disposal facility built on Indianapolis Boulevard at Riley Road.
Federal law in 1972 stopped the previous practice of dumping dredged material out in Lake Michigan, and maintenance of the waterways has been delayed for 40 years while a location to store the polluted sediment was selected and prepared.
The Army Corps estimates that five years of dredging will be needed to bring the channel's depth to acceptable levels for shipping vessels, with another 25 years of annual dredging planned to maintain the waterways as part of the $150 million federal project.
Lift bridges across the canal at Indianapolis Boulevard and Dickey Road will be raised at least 15 times a day for barges filled with dredged sediment on their way to the disposal facility, but the Army Corps will keep the Indianapolis Boulevard bridge open weekdays between 5:45 a.m. and 7:45 a.m., and 3:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. to accommodate rush-hour traffic.
Air monitors around the disposal site, just blocks from Central High School and West Side Junior High, have been activated to measure any potential toxic releases from the facility, and can be accessed by computer in real time at www.indianaharbordredge.com.
An official ribbon-cutting ceremony to herald the beginning of the project is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 29 on the confined disposal facility grounds, once the site of a Sinclair Oil Company refinery.
More information about the project is available at the official Army Corps project website www.lrc.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorksProjects/IndianaHarbor.aspx.