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Indiana Harbor and Canal Project

TOSC Assistance


Residents of northwest Indiana have requested Technical Outreach Services Communities (TOSC) Program assistance concerning the dredging of sediments from the Indiana Harbor and Canal (IHC) and the construction of a confined disposal facility in East Chicago, Indiana. TOSC is a university based technical assistance program, funded under a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), that seeks to promote effective public involvement in the decision making about the dredging of the IHC. Following meetings with interested citizens and local officials, TOSC has prepared this Outreach Brief, which provides a background on the project and a listing of concerns that have been expressed by community members. The brief also lists services that TOSC may provide to address community con-cerns, including independent scientific review of data and assistance in un-derstanding the potential effects to people and the environment. TOSC is working collaboratively with the Grand Calumet Task Force and other local community organizations to address public concern over the IHC project

Background on IHC project

The Indiana Harbor is located in East Chicago, Lake County, Indiana (see Figure 1), on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan, 4-1/2 miles east of the Indiana-Illinois state line.  Indiana Harbor has an entrance channel and outer harbor, and an inner harbor, which consists of the Indiana Harbor Canal and its two branches.  The main channel extends from the E.J. & E. Railway Bridge to the Forks, a distance of 7,400 feet.  From the Forks, the Lake George Branch of the Indiana Harbor extends west for a distance of 6,800 feet, and the Grand Calumet River Branch extends south for about 2 miles, where it joins the Grand Calumet River.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (The Corps) has proposed to carry out dredging of sediments from the IHC to allow its continued use as a navigable waterway.  Some of those sediments are contaminated by toxic chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycylclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals.  The principal source of sediment and sediment contamination is due to combined sewer overflows, municipal and industrial discharge, and urban runoff.  Because of the contamination in the sediments, U.S. EPA has examined, and is continuing to examine, the environmental impacts of the project, particularly the risks to people and the environment.

The Corps plans to place the sediments that are dredged into a confined disposal facility (CDF).  The Corps has proposed to build the CDF on the former Energy Cooperative Industries (ECI) property (see Figure 1), the site of a former petroleum refinery.  The site has “open” status as a federally permitted facility because it requires further cleanup work.  The Corps sees the CDF as part of the required cleanup activities on the ECI property.

Update of IHC Project (partial list)

 The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has provided the following update of tasks related to the project that will be carried out over the next six months.  Questions about Corps work should be directed to the Project Manager, Bill White, at (312) 353-6400 x3151.  The Corps is:

 ·        Planning to collect sediment samples this spring to look at whether chemicals and particles in the sediments might be released to the environment during the dredging.  (TOSC has provided comments on the sampling plan and will review the findings from the sampling.  TOSC has also requested to accompany the Corps during the sampling.)
 ·        Re-examining the choice of dredging technology.  Should a mechanical dredging process be used or hydraulic dredging?  (TOSC has asked for information on the methods that the Corps is using for this review, along with an opportunity to comment on the report.)
 ·        Developing a plan to monitor air emissions during the dredging and CDF construction.
 ·        Developing plans to build a plant to treat contaminated water that is collected during the dredging operation.
 ·        Developing plans and specifications for the confined disposal facility.

Citizen Questions and Concerns

TOSC staff members have attended public meetings and met with residents to discuss their questions and concerns about the IHC project.   Their concerns are summarized below (a detailed listing of public concerns is provided as a separate handout titled “Citizen Questions and Concerns”).

  • Will the project cause health problems for the residents of East Chicago?
  • Why was the CDF site chosen in an area with so many existing environmental problems and so close to residences and schools?  Is the ECI site the best site for the CDF?
  • Will people be exposed to volatile chemicals or particulates from the CDF during the dredging, during the transport of dredged materials or during their placement in the CDF?  Do we know what the air emissions will be?  How much do they add to the existing air quality problem?
  • Why has the Corps proposed mechanical dredging, and would hydraulic dredging be safer for public health and the environment?
  • How do we know the CDF won’t leak or collapse?
  • This facility will negatively impact African-American and Hispanic communities, and low-income persons.  The Corps should consider environmental justice in siting the CDF.

TOSC Review Panel and Services

TOSC will provide services, with the goal of informing and educating community members on key aspects of the IHC project, including independent scientific analysis of issues that are of concern to community members.  TOSC proposes to provide assistance in the following areas.  The details of each item below will be provided in a subsequent document.
1.      Choice of dredging technology; handling of dredged materials  TOSC’s reviewer will be Dr. Danny Reible, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Louisiana State University and Director of the South and Southwest Hazardous Substance Research Center.  Dr. Reible’s research focuses on the transport of contaminants in the environment, particularly in contaminated sediments and dredged materials.
2.      Design of the Confined Disposal Facility  TOSC’s reviewer will be Dr. Milind Khire, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering at Michigan State University.  Dr. Khire is a faculty member in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and specializes in soil mechanics and geoenvironmental properties of soils and geosynthetics.  He also worked in the private sector in landfill design, prior to coming to Michigan State.
3.      Ecological and Human Health Risk Assessment  TOSC’s reviewer will be Dr. Diane Henshel, Associate Professor in the Indiana University School of Public Affairs.  Dr. Henshel’s research focuses on the sublethal health effects of environmental pollutants, especially on pollutant effects on the developing organism.  She has carried out prior assessments of ecological effects associated with the dredging, and that information will be presented at a subsequent meetings.

4.      Remediation options for contaminated sediments  TOSC’s reviewer will be Dr. Kathy Banks, who is the Director of the Midwest Hazardous Substance Research Center and Professor of Civil Engineering at Purdue University. Her research focuses on phytoremediation, bioremediation, and environmental microbiology.  Dr. Banks will address the treatment options that may reduce the toxicity (hazard) of the sediments that are placed into the CDF.

Next Steps

The TOSC Program, working collaboratively with the Grand Calumet Task Force, will publish an Outreach Plan in March 2003.  The plan will detail the services that TOSC anticipates providing during the next year.  TOSC will provide the document in draft form, and community comments and additions are welcome.

TOSC proposes to hold a series of community workshops to address key technical issues related to the IHC project.  Our goal is to build community capacity for participating in the ongoing decision making about the dredging and CDF construction.  The workshop topics will relate to the topic areas listed under “TOSC Review Panel and Services.” 

Further, TOSC will review ongoing studies that are being carried out by the Corps or EPA (such as the evaluation of hydraulic dredging) prior to the Corps completing those studies, provided that the Corps makes available to TOSC the methods and plans for the studies.  TOSC will also review any new or prior reports from EPA or the Corps, where TOSC and the community agree that independent analysis would be helpful.  TOSC will provide comments to our community partners on any documents reviewed.  All materials developed by TOSC will be published at the website www.egr.msu.edu/tosc (click on the Gary, Ind., link.).

Indiana Harbor and Canal; location of Confined Disposal Facility

The Midwest Hazardous Substance Research Center, Michigan State University.
Please contact us if you have any comments or questions.