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EPA: Dredging begins at Indiana Harbor Ship Canal

Nathan Holth

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (AP) — Dredging of a ship canal in northwest Indiana has begun as environmental regulators continue to study off-site disposal options for highly contaminated sediments, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractors began dredging work at the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal in East Chicago on Monday, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported . Removing the 120,000 cubic yards (91,750 cubic meters) of sediment will likely finish in the fall, the Corps said.

Sediment containing more than 50 parts per million of polychlorinated biphenyls won't be dredged until off-site disposal is finalized, said Natalie Mills, project manager for the Army Corps. PCBs are cancer-causing chemicals once used in a wide range of products, from electrical appliances to fluorescent lighting

The Army Corps has applied for a Toxic Substances Control Act permit to store the material at a confined disposal facility near East Chicago Central High School and the new Carrie Gosch Elementary School. Environmental activists and residents fought the proposal, arguing the city is already overburdened with toxic industrial contamination.

The EPA and the state Department of Department of Environmental Management are conducting a feasibility study and remedial design for removal of the sediment. The study is ongoing, the EPA said. The TSCA permit application is pending, according to the Army Corps.

Dredging the most contaminated sediments would likely begin next year if the study determines that off-site disposal is feasible, the EPA said.

The Grand Calumet River and Indiana Harbor Ship Canal were first labeled as an area of concern in 1987. The area has sediments with toxic and cancer-causing substances, such as heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are also cancer-causing compounds.

EDIT: 06/12/18 at 10:18 AM to reflect update from Associated Press