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Things are changing for the positive in the Grand Calumet River Area of Concern, the once highly polluted and damaged area is on its way to becoming truly “Grand” again as a recovering riverine habitat. This is due to the great partnerships created by those working to implement the Remedial Action Plan (RAP), with the goal of creating a better environmental future for area residents and wildlife.
Prior to strict modern environmental regulations, industries, factories, and municipal sanitary districts would often discharge chemicals and contaminants directly into the Grand Calumet River. Much of this pollution would stick to, or seep in between, the grains of clay, sand, or silt at the river bottom. The build-up of such pollution in the river sediments caused drastic harm to the ecosystem, resulting in the Grand Calumet River being deemed one of the worst quality rivers in the Great Lakes region.
By the 1980s, new environmental regulations had been developed which changed how municipalities and industries could operate. These changes dramatically reduced the discharge of contaminants into the river. Even with new operational standards, the impacts of prior (legacy) contaminants had already caused great harm to the river, leaving it highly impaired for human and wildlife use.
Due to the Grand Calumet River area’s history of contamination, it was deemed one of 43 “Areas of Concern”, or AOCs, around the Great Lakes by the International Joint Commission in the 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). The GLWQA, which is overseen by the U.S. EPA in the United States, required that each AOC have a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) developed to be the blueprint for the remediation of the 14 designated beneficial use impairments (BUIs) of the waterway.
For Indiana, this meant that IDEM would take the lead in developing the RAP - with the aid of the Citizens Advisory for the Remediation of the Environment (CARE) Committee, a group of IDEM-designated individuals who provide input into the RAP planning process. The RAP identifies key projects, such as sediment remediation and habitat restoration, needed in the AOC.
Over the past 20 years, IDEM and the CARE Committee have been planning for and implementing projects to remove the BUIs and delist the Grand Calumet River from the list of Great Lakes AOCs. With the help of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Great Lakes Legacy Act, and funding from state and local partners, great progress has been made toward remediating the river and surrounding areas.
Living, working, or recreating within an AOC should not significantly affect one’s day-to-day life; however, it is important to know what the restrictions are on the beneficial uses in your area.
For additional information on the Grand Calumet River/Indiana Harbor Ship Canal Area of Concern, please contact:
Indiana Department of Environmental Management
Northwest Regional Office
330 W US HWY 30 Suite F
Valparaiso, IN 46385