dredging under way
Northwest Indiana Times
GARY -- U.S. Steel Corp. began cleaning part
of the Grand Calumet River this week, launching the nation's
largest dredging project to date and one that will cost
the company $41 million.
After more than 12 years of planning, on Wednesday a hydraulic
dredge began pumping out the first of 750,000 square yards
of contaminated sediments to be removed from the river.
Decades of unchecked industrial and municipal
waste have ravaged the Grand Calumet, which flows into
Illinois from Gary. U.S. Steel's efforts are part of a
larger effort by the government, businesses and environmental
groups to clean the polluted waterway.
"It's important to understand that this damage was done
in the years before the Clean Water Act, when the actions
were accepted," said U.S. Steel Environmental Control
Manager Ken Mentzel, as he looked out on the green and
brown swirls of flowing water.
"You can see why we are doing this."
The company, which is operating under a 1999 federal consent
decree and a 1998 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
order, will dredge 5.1 miles of the Grand Calumet beginning
at its Gary Works site over the next nine months.
U.S. Steel's consent decree, first initiated in 1990,
and the RCRA order are court-ordered agreements between
the company and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
that outline how the waterway should be cleaned.
The contaminated sediments are pumped into a large pipe
alongside the river that stretches to an on-site storage
area called a Corrective Action Management Unit, or CAMU.
The layers of lining at the containment site, which spans
38 acres, are enough to cover 150 football fields.
Sediments at the CAMU will be discharged under water,
which acts as a seal until the site is filled and topped
off with vegetation, said Rick Menozzi, project manager
and director of environmental remediation at U.S. Steel.
"We have constant air monitoring at the site and will
continue to monitor until the water is out and we are
assured that the material has stabilized," he said.
Menozzi said U.S. Steel's methods are quite different
than how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to dredge
the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal in East Chicago in 2005.
The Army Corps intends to scoop out the sediments using
a clamshell-like machine, load them onto barges and bring
them into an open-air confined disposal facility.
Some East Chicago residents are worried that contaminants
in the sediment could become airborne during dredging
and containment. They instead want the Army Corps to use
hydraulic dredging like U.S. Steel's, which sucks up the
sediment and pipes it underwater to the containment site.
"The sediments we dredge are never in the open air," Mentzel
Like the Army Corps, U.S. Steel also holds community meetings
to inform the public. But unlike the corps project, most
residents and local environmental groups -- such as the
Grand Calumet Task Force and Save the Dunes Council --
are supportive of the company's project.
"We've always tried to share our progress with the people
and listen to their concerns," Menozzi said. "We have
made all of our actions open to the public."
Although Menozzi said U.S. Steel only needed to dredge
half of what they are removing to meet federal requirements,
he said the company wanted to do more.
Once the dredging is completed, U.S. Steel will also restore
riverbank vegetation, improve fish habitat in the river
and deed 32 acres of adjacent natural property to the
National Park Service.
"This is a project that will clearly make a difference,"
Menozzi said. "We are working to restore this river back
to what it was."