Pollution cleanup puts Grand Cal on the road to recovery

The Grand Calumet River, which flows through a heavily industrialized area south of Chicago, was for years considered America’s most polluted river.

Now the river known as the Grand Cal is on the road to recovery, thanks to a momentous $52 million cleanup that restored a large wetland and removed more than 575,000 cubic yards of toxic mud from the Lake Michigan tributary.

State and federal officials, along with Congressman Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), were in East Chicago, Ind., Monday to announce the completion of the Roxana Marsh cleanup. The project will “speed the recovery of Indiana’s Grand Calumet River, marking a step forward for one of the Great Lakes’ most complex Area of Concern cleanups,” according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press release.

“The work by federal, state, county, city and other partners over the years has helped deliver real results under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” said Cameron Davis, Senior Advisor to the EPA Administrator. “The work we’re talking about today will help give the Grand Cal a fighting chance to be grand again.”

These photos show the Roxana Marsh before the cleanup (above) and after government agencies removed tons of toxic mud and restored the large wetland (below).

Contaminated sediments in and around the Roxana Marsh led to fish consumption advisories, destroyed wildlife habitat and caused an array of other environmental problems. We wrote about the Grand Calumet’s tortured environmental history in a January blog post, which can be read here.

The Roxana Marsh cleanup is one of several projects aimed at removing toxic sediments from the Grand Calumet River and restoring fish and wildlife habitat in the lower river.

The Grand Calumet River originates in the east end of Gary, Indiana, and flows through the cities of Gary, East Chicago and Hammond. It flows into Lake Michigan via the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal.

“I am pleased by the progress that has been made to address the environmental degradation associated with the Grand Calumet River,” Congressman Visclosky said. “Investments made in restoration projects along the river, such as the work completed at Roxana Marsh in East Chicago and in the City of Hammond, are investments in the health and safety of our local communities and a commitment to the betterment of Northwest Indiana.”


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