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EPA in Indiana

Indiana Harbor Canal

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EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) approved the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) request to use its East Chicago, Ind., confined disposal facility (CDF) to dispose of sediment from PCB-contaminated hotspots in the Indiana Harbor Canal. After a thorough evaluation and with careful consideration of public comments, EPA and IDEM have determined that the confined disposal facility is a safe, proven and cost-effective way to handle this type of waste.

Federal, state and local agencies have been working together for more than 20 years to restore the Grand Calumet River system. EPA and IDEM consider it important and necessary to remove and dispose of sediment hotspots in the Indiana Harbor Canal. PCBs have been shown to cause a variety of adverse health effects and removal of the hotspots will prevent potential exposure to PCBs at unsafe levels.

USACE dredges the Indiana Harbor Canal waterway for navigational purposes and currently sends dredged material with PCB concentrations below 50 parts per million (ppm) to a confined disposal facility (CDF).  During planning for navigational dredging, USACE identified hotspots where sediments contain PCBs at concentrations at or above 50 ppm. Federal and state regulations require additional reviews and approvals to allow the disposal of sediment contaminated with PCB concentrations at or above 50 ppm. In 2014, USACE applied to EPA and IDEM for the necessary federal and state approvals to dispose of PCB-contaminated sediment at or above 50 ppm in the CDF.

In 2017, EPA and IDEM issued proposed approvals for the USACE request, but in response to public requests, EPA and IDEM paused their review and approval processes so EPA could examine alternative options, specifically for a Great Lakes Legacy Act cleanup which would dispose of the sediment off-site in a commercial landfill. EPA determined there was much less PCB-contaminated sediment (approximately 20,000 cubic yards) than USACE had originally estimated (60,000 cubic yards). A Great Lakes Legacy Act cleanup, however, would require a non-federal project partner to share costs and long-term maintenance responsibilities and EPA was unable to find an appropriate partner that could meet the requirements for the project.

EPA and IDEM agree that the only feasible option for removal of PCB-contaminated sediment is for USACE to dispose of the sediment in the CDF.  EPA and IDEM have completed their parallel Toxic Substances Control Act review processes and have approved the USACE application to do this dredging and disposal work. The agencies have determined that the CDF – which USACE has operated since 2012 and was specially designed to dispose of dredged material – is proven, effective and appropriate for disposing of sediments with PCB concentrations at or above 50 ppm. With the approvals from the two agencies, USACE plans to proceed with dredging in spring 2019.

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