HAMMOND | Millions of pounds of contaminated sediment have been removed from the Grand Calumet River, and new projects to clean up the historically polluted waterway may be in the works.
Scott Ireland, special assistant for the senior adviser to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's administrator on the Great Lakes, brought that message to business and industry leaders, government officials, environmentalists and students at the Purdue University Calumet Water Institute Tuesday morning. The event was part of a BP-sponsored lecture series.
Partnerships among state and federal agencies, industries and non-profit organizations began with discussions in the early 1990s. Those partnerships have resulted in the cleanup or slated cleaning of 13 miles of the river from the Illinois State Line to U.S. Steel, Ireland said.
Ireland said various methods, including hydraulic dredging and capping, have been used on stretches of the Grand Calumet to remove and contain contaminants. Some 7 million pounds of contaminated sediments were either excavated or isolated at the Roxanna Marsh alone, he said.
"There's talk of putting in a bird platform at Roxanna Marsh so people can actually come there and see something cool now," he said.
"We know nature wants to fix itself. We just have to give it a little help."
Ireland said the U.S. EPA is in negotiations with the East Chicago Waterway Management District to dredge three areas of the river through that city.
"I think we're in the final stages of being able to sign an agreement," he said, adding studies could begin this winter.
The U.S. EPA also is in discussions with the City of Gary about a stretch of the river near the Gary/Chicago International Airport. Ireland said the Gary Sanitary District is operating under an order by the EPA to clean up the Ralston Street Lagoon and needs more materials for the project.