Grand Calumet River Area of Concern
Restoration and remedial efforts are in progress in the East Branch (Zone B) of the Grand Calumet River. The 1.8-mile stretch of the river from Indianapolis Blvd. to Hohman Ave. is undergoing projects designed to remove contaminants and restore habitat. 350,000 cubic yards of sediment is slated to be dredged and a cap will be placed over the dredged sediment.
Wetlands and nearshore habitats will be restored with native plants followed the completion of the dredging, expected in 2016.
Zone C is currently in the design phase, while the specifics of zones D and E are being negotiated among federal and non-federal entities.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently carrying out multiple projects in the Area of Concern. Navigational dredging began in summer 2013. USACE is also conducting habitat restoration work at the Marquette Park Lagoon (Gary Lagoons Superfund removal site), which will be completed in 2013.
About the Grand Calumet River
The Grand Calumet River, originating in the east end of Gary, Indiana, flows 13 miles through the heavily industrialized cities of Gary, East Chicago and Hammond. The majority of the river's flow drains into Lake Michigan via the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal, sending about one billion gallons of water into the lake per day.
The Area of Concern begins 15 miles south of downtown Chicago and includes the east branch of the river, a small segment of the west branch, and the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal. Today, 90 percent of the river's flow originates as municipal and industrial effluent, cooling and process water, and storm water overflows. Although discharges have been reduced, a number of contaminants continue to impair the AOC.
The largest extent of the impairment to the AOC comes from legacy pollutants found in the sediments at the bottom of the Grand Calumet River and Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal. Contaminants include PCBs, PAHs, and heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, chromium and lead. High fecal coliform bacteria levels, biochemical oxygen demand, suspended solids, and oil and grease create additional problems. These pollutants originated from both point and nonpoint sources.
Nonpoint sources include 5 to 10 million yards of contaminated sediment, industrial waste site runoff, CERCLA sites (five of which are on Superfund's National Priority List), RCRA hazardous waste sites, underground storage tanks, atmospheric deposition, urban runoff and contaminated groundwater. Point sources are limited to industrial and municipal wastewater discharges and combined sewer overflows. All 14 beneficial uses were determined to be impaired in the 1991 remedial action plan.
Beneficial Use Impairments
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Eutrophication or undesirable algae
- Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor
- Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor
- Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
- Beach closings
- Fish tumors or other deformities
- Degradation of aesthetics
- Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems
- Added costs to agriculture or industry
- Degradation of benthos
- Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations
- Restriction on dredging activities
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
Efforts towards restoration
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is responsible for preparing remedial action plans, which began in 1991. The Citizens Advisory for the Remediation of the Environment Committee plays a very active role in implementing the RAP and works closely with IDEM to make updates and future plans for the AOC.
- BUI removed – In 2012, the restrictions on drinking water consumption due to taste or odor problems were lifted. Three years passed without taste or odor complaints related to contaminants originating within the AOC. In addition, there were no taste or odor problems due to excessive algae and no further raw water treatment was needed to control taste or odor problems in the water supply.
- The second dredging operation in the West Branch of the Grand Calumet River was completed in spring 2012. The Legacy Act project involved the remediation of 580,000 cubic yards of sediment. Dredging concluded in December 2011 and restoration efforts took place in spring 2012.
- Cleanup in the Roxana Marsh portion of the West Branch of Grand Calumet River was completed in August 2011. The cleanup was part of a Great Lakes Legacy Act initiative. 150,000 cubic yards of sediment were remediated at a cost of $31.1 million. EPA provided 65 percent of the funds, while the remaining was covered by the State of Indiana using Natural Resources Damage Assessment funds.
- BUI removed - The added cost to agriculture or industry impairment was removed in 2011. It was the first BUI removed after meeting the standards detailed in the Grand Calumet's BUI removal criteria. The criteria required there be no increased cost of shipping due to inability to dredge in the harbor and shipping canal for environmental reasons.
- U.S. Steel completed further in-stream restoration projects in December 2010. Riffles, bank scalloping, boulder piles, wing deflectors with snags, and native species planting along the riverbank were all part of the remedial effort. Fish and other aquatic species habitats have improved markedly as a result of these projects.
- U.S. Steel completed dredging of a 5-mile portion of the east branch of the river in 2007. More than 800,000 cubic yards of sediment were removed, reducing contamination in the river. The corporation worked with Natural Resource Trustees in developing an in-stream restoration plan. The project was completed in July 2010.
- The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act was implemented in 2004 and 2005. IDEM provided funding to three AOC communities to be used towards daily E. coli sampling at their beaches. The data will be used towards removing the beach closures impairment.
- IDEM and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service release the sediment injury report for the Grand Calumet River as part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, April 2001. A $56 million settlement was announced in 2004. The NRDA identified nine responsible parties that released hazardous substances into the water column.
- The United States and State of Indiana entered into a consent decree with the Hammond Sanitary District in 1999. $2.1 million dollars were paid into the Grand Calumet River Restoration Fund trust and a schedule was established to implement the Wastewater Treatment Plant Compliance Program.
You will need the free Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.
- Drinking Water, Taste and Odor BUI Removal Approval Letter (PDF) (1 pg, 252 K) March 2012
- Added Cost to Agriculture and Industry BUI Removal Approval Letter (PDF) (1 pg, 48 K) September 2011
- History and Environmental Setting of the Grand Calumet River (PDF) (8 pp, 7.2 MB) 2000
- Stage 2.5 Remedial Action Plan, September 1998 (PDF) (47 pp, 11.2 MB) September 1998
- Stage 2 Remedial Action Plan (PDF) (238 pp, 47.1 MB) December 1997
- Stage 1 Remedial Action Plan (PDF) (134 pp, 7.9 MB) January 1991
In 1991, IDEM opened a regional office in Gary to act as a liaison with local officials, concerned citizens, and industry, including the involvement of concerned citizens through the Citizens Advisory for the Remediation of the Environment Committee. CARE plays an active role in implementing the RAP and consists of subcommittees to direct their focuses in specific BUIs. They also educate the public about the changing status of the Grand Calumet.
- CARE Committee
- Calumet Waterway Stewards
- Grand Calumet River Restoration Fund Council
- Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources
- Indiana Natural Resources Commission
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. Steel Corporation