HAMMOND | Indiana Department of Environmental Management officials on Friday toured the site where the Monon Bridge once stood over the Grand Calumet River.

"We're looking for any damage to the banks where we could have erosion," IDEM spokesman Dan Goldblatt said. "We're looking for debris in the water. We're looking for foreign objects in the water and we're looking for any violations of the Clean Water Act. We're looking for damage to the remediation work going on in the Grand Cal."

Officials said the bridge, which was partially dismantled earlier this year by a man who did not have permits to do so, was now gone and they believe the same man is to blame.

Kenneth Morrison, of Whiting, allegedly returned to the Monon Bridge over the Grand Calumet River and removed the rest of the bridge. Local, state and federal officials said no permits were issued for the work — which would have been required by all three — and a federal criminal investigation is underway.

Morrison admitted to The Times in February that he dismantled the bridge without permits, but insisted he was not required to do so.

Officials disagree.

A petroleum sheen was visible and the smell of gasoline was present at the river Friday after IDEM officials toured the property just south of Marble Street near the Illinois state line.

"We know there is contaminated sediment nearby," Goldblatt said. "You can tell from observing here that the oil we're seeing isn't from the bridge demolition. It's coming from east of here. We're working with our federal partners on that."

Nicholas Ream, environmental engineer for wastewater compliance for IDEM, was looking for specific issues at the site.

"I'm trying to see if there is timber in the stream and making sure we don't see materials in the water that shouldn't be there," Ream said. 

He said he did not see any timber in the river, but did see some steel beams near the northerly concrete support.

"You can obviously see there's some construction material that's been left just south of where the bridge stood," Goldblatt said. 

The good news, Goldblatt said, was wildlife was present in the river.

"We see life in the river right now," he said. "We see fish. We see blue heron. This river is alive. It just needs a little help."

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