HAMMOND | Stakeholders gathered Friday at Purdue University Calumet for a seminar on the Grand Calumet River Area of Concern, touting successes on what was once deemed "the filthiest stream in the world."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created areas of concern designation in the 1980s, with the Grand Cal among 43 areas named.
"We were the only one that had all (14) beneficial uses that were impaired," John Fekete, co-chairman of the Citizens Advisory for Remediation of the Environment committee said.
Since 2011, two of the impairments have been delisted in the agricultural and drinking water categories as a result of collaborative efforts.
Representatives from the U.S. EPA, Indiana Department of Environmental Management and U.S. Steel detailed their work to dredge the river and remove millions of cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the historically polluted waterway.
Richard Whitman, station chief and aquatic ecologist with the Lake Michigan Ecologist Research Station of the U.S. Geological Survey at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, called the work "no less than heroic."
Plans for more work in Gary and East Chicago may be approved as early as next week.
Scott Ireland, special assistant to the senior adviser on the Great Lakes at the U.S. EPA, said the work will never truly be complete.
"We know that cleaning this up and walking away from it makes no sense," Ireland said, adding that partnerships with land management agencies and nonprofits will keep the work going.
Gary environmentalist Lee Botts said methods applied on the Grand Cal are now national policy.
"I keep trying to cheer what is happening in Northwest Indiana," she said. "Some very significant things are happening here in Northwest Indiana that have great impact far outside our area."