EAST CHICAGO, Ind. -- Plans to dredge the
contamination-laced Indiana Harbor and Shipping Canal
have riled nearby residents, who fear that the dredged-up
muck will create a public health hazard.
Dredging of the canal, one of the Great Lakes'
most contaminated sites, is scheduled to begin in 2005
and end in 2035, when an open-air site containing the
dredged sediments will be capped.
Activists fear that, during the project, people
will inhale sediments tainted with oil, grease, lead,
chromium, ammonia and PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls,
a suspected carcinogen.
"Thirty years is just too long to have
this open in the community," said Betty Balanoff,
a Hammond environmental activist who opposes the project.
"It's at least half a lifetime for many East Chicago
Balanoff's group, the Committee for a Clean
Environment, and the Grand Calumet Task Force both oppose
parts of the project.
The residents warn that contaminants in the
sediment could become airborne during dredging and containment.
The canal, which flows through a region that
is home to almost 25 percent of the nation's steel mills
and other heavy industrial plants, has not been dredged
in 30 years.
The industries along the stretch send almost
200,000 cubic yards of polluted sediments into Lake Michigan
Fully weighted ships and barges have been
unable to use the canal in decades because it's too shallow,
according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The $247 million dredging project has been
decades in the making. Preliminary construction at the
holding site finally began last spring. An estimated 4.6
million cubic yards of the polluted sediments dredged
from the canal will be stored at an open-air landfill.
A risk assessment completed by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency in 1995 found that any risks from the
project were well within federal cleanup guidelines.
The project's emission levels are expected
to be so low that it does not require an air quality permit
from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
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