EAST CHICAGO | A project that will clean a river segment between Kennedy Avenue and Cline Avenue began late last month.
"The Grand Calumet River remediation and habitat restoration is being performed under the Great Lakes Legacy Act," said Catie McCoy, environmental social scientist at the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. "It basically authorized the EPA to fund and perform sediment cleanups around the Great Lakes."
McCoy said sediment in many areas of the Grand Calumet River is contaminated from roughly 100 years of industrial discharges.
"This pollution, we now know, is composed of chemicals like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and these are chemicals that can harm fish, wildlife and humans," she said. "The pollution is also composed of heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and lead."
The project on the Kennedy Avenue to Cline Avenue stretch of the river is expected to last about three years and result in the removal or isolation of 1.2 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment and the restoration of more than 50 acres of wetland habitat, McCoy said.
"In the Grand Calumet River, the cleanup will dramatically reduce exposure to contamination from the river," McCoy said. "It will help reduce the stigma of pollution, and it will help make the river more beautiful. It will help improve activities like bird watching, walking and being able to enjoy the river."
Scott Ireland, site manager for the Grand Calumet River project for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said wetlands adjacent to the river are being choked with invasive species and that the work done will involve the removal of phragmites.
Great Lakes Remediation LLC is the contractor performing the work on this segment of the river.
Ireland said the EPA is funding the project with help from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Ireland said a cleanup project that began in 2009 and ended in 2012 was completed on the west branch of the river between Indianapolis Boulevard and Hohman Avenue.