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Indiana Harbor and Canal,
Northwest Indiana

The Grand Calumet River, the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal and the Indiana Harbor are located in one of the world's largest concentrations of industry. Ninety percent of the river flow consists of industrial and municipal effluent, storm water and combined sewer overflows, which has led to severe water and sediment contamination in all three waterways. According to the Environmental Impact Statement for the Corps project, about 150,000 cubic yards of polluted sediments enter Lake Michigan each year from these waterways. These sediments contain 77,000 pounds of chromium, 100,000 pounds of lead, and 420 pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Additional contaminants include high fecal coliform bacteria levels, biochemical oxygen demand, suspended solids, and heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and lead. The contamination has degraded the benthic community, fish community and wildlife. Other beneficial-use impairments, as defined under the river's designation as an Area of Concern (AOC), include restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, on recreational uses, beach closings and degradation of aesthetics. The Grand Calumet AOC is the only one of the 43 AOCs on the Great Lakes to have all 14 beneficial uses listed as impaired.

Three separate dredging projects have been or are being negotiated within the IHC/GCR system: 1) the Indiana Harbor and much of the Canal; 2) the east five miles of the East Branch of the GCR; and 3) the West Branch of the GCR. The Corps has proposed to build a 131-acre confined disposal facility (CDF) to hold the 4.67 million cubic yards of toxic sediments that may be dredged from the upper canal and the harbor. The planned CDF, regulated under RCRA, will be located a half mile from a high school, middle school and residential area. The dredging of the harbor and the canal is expected to begin in 2005 and both the dredging and the CDF have provoked strong public health concern.

U.S. Steel Gary Works (USS), one of the largest integrated steel manufacturing plants in the world, has proposed to dredge about 700,000 cubic yards of sediments from five miles of the eastern branch of the river, an operation expected to be completed by next year. USS has proposed to build a landfill called a Corrective Action Management Unit (CAMU) for the storage of the dredged materials on company property. This unit is another primary issue concerning the community.

The third dredging project along the west branch of the GCR is still in negotiation. Once negotiated, however, the parties will again have to decide how to store the sediments, which may elicit many of the same public concerns as the other projects.

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The Midwest Hazardous Substance Research Center, Michigan State University.
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