Chicago, Illinois - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $26 million cleanup will begin this month on Lake George Canal in the cities of East Chicago and Hammond, Indiana. The waterway is part of the Grand Calumet River Area of Concern on Lake Michigan, identified by the United States and Canada as one of 43 toxic hotspots in the Great Lakes basin.

Work will be funded through a cost-sharing partnership with the East Chicago Waterway Management District (ECWMD), Atlantic Richfield Company and BP Products North America. EPA anticipates the cleanup will be completed in 2020.

“Through this public-private partnership, EPA, East Chicago Waterway Management District, Atlantic Richfield and BP will work together to remove more than a century’s legacy contamination, improve habitat and boost economic growth along the Grand Calumet River in Northwest Indiana,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator / Great Lakes National Program Manager Cathy Stepp. “This massive cleanup is a crucial step forward in restoring the river and clearly demonstrates the progress being made under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”

Approximately 60,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment will be dredged from the Lake George Canal. Any material that may remain will be capped and controlled, as needed.  

“Mayor Copeland of East Chicago, Congressman Visclosky, ECWMD Board of Directors, Atlantic Richfield and BP, and EPA have been outstanding partners in the cleaning of our waterways and in the team’s hard work and effort to see this project through to fruition,” said ECWMD Executive Director Fernando M. Treviño.

“Atlantic Richfield Company and BP Products North America appreciate the opportunity to partner with the U.S. EPA and the East Chicago Waterway Management District on the completion of this important project,” said Chris Greco, Portfolio Manager, Remediation Management Services Company. “We believe it benefits the community and helps create additional opportunities in East Chicago.”

The Grand Calumet River flows 13 miles through the heavily industrialized cities of Gary, East Chicago and Hammond. The river is recognized as one of the most contaminated in the nation and consists mostly of drainage from nearby cities and industries. Historical industrial activities such as steelmaking, meatpacking and oil refining contaminated the river’s sediment with heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and oil and grease. It is the only Area of Concern that was originally considered impaired on all fourteen beneficial uses under the bi-national Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Tomorrow, EPA Great Lakes National Program Office Director Chris Korleski will join community members and stakeholders at Seidner Dune and Swale Nature Preserve for the seventh annual Grand Calumet River Stewardship Day co-hosted by The Nature Conservancy and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. 

The GLRI was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes. Federal agencies have funded more than 4,700 projects totaling over $2.4 billion to address the most important Great Lakes priorities, including: cleaning up highly-contaminated “areas of concern,” reducing nutrient runoff, combating invasive species and restoring habitat.