Grand Calumet River Partnership
Grand Calumet River Restoration Fund
Trail Creek Management Plan
Agricultural Initiatives


RECENT EFFORTS


Grand Calumet River Corridor Plan

The Grand Cal Task Force, a citizens action group focused on improvement of the Grand Calumet River, is leading an effort to result in the Grand Calumet River Corridor Planning Project. The goal of the of the project is stated by the Grand Cal Task Force as: "Through a partnership funding and visioning process, to plan for the revitalization and restoration of the Grand Calumet River Corridor to promote recreation, commercial, industrial, conservation, better quality, cultural, historic and environmental education uses and benefits."


Monitoring for E. coli

In March 1998, one of the largest monitoring networks in northwest Indiana began sampling for E. coli in the Indiana Lake Michigan watershed. The monitoring is conducted voluntarily by several public and private entities to try to help identify where sources of bacteria that might be contributing to "beach closings" are originating. The project is scheduled to continue into the fall of 1998. A trial-run was conducted last fall.176

October 1997 was a busy month for eighteen different public and private waste water treatment facilities and health departments in Northwest Indiana, especially on Wednesdays. These facilities along with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore sampled for E. coli bacteria, at 75 sites in Lake Michigan and its tributaries, in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, St. Joseph, and Elkhart Counties each Wednesday during October. The voluntary effort is lead by the Point Source Committee of the Interagency Task Force on E. coli. Michael Kuss, environmental engineer of IDEM, chairs the Point Source Committee.

Kuss said "the monitoring in October was an extraordinary community effort. Facilities volunteered their time and money to collect and analyze samples." Each facility sampled upstream and downstream of its outfall, as well as at the outfall itself. The monitoring completed in October was a pilot to work out the details of the sampling network so it would be ready in time for the swimming season this summer. Kuss said "The participating facilities have already agreed to conduct the full scale monitoring project starting in March 1998." The Point Source Committee is considering to attempt the inclusion of sites and participation in neighboring Illinois and Michigan communities.

Kuss compiled the sampling results from each of the facilities and also identified the amount of rain the area received up to 108 hours prior to sampling. Kuss told the Interagency Task Force onE. coli, at its December 3 meeting, that October was a relatively dry month so results can act as baseline data as the monitoring plan continues next year. However, there were several days when rain was recorded near the end of the month, and the E. coli levels appeared to be elevated in most tributaries as a result. Kuss said it is also worth noting that none of the 64 total Lake Michigan samples collected at various beaches and harbors in near shore Lake Michigan exceeded the 235 colonies of E. coli / 100 ml water bathing beach standard established by EPA, on sampling days.

Results from the monitoring completed during 1998 will begin to provide data which will help to isolate sources of E. coli within the watershed contributing to the bacterial contamination at the beaches.

Participants in the monitoring plan include:

Bethlehem Steel
Chesterton Wastewater Treatment Facility
East Chicago Sanitary District
Elkhart Wastewater Treatment Facility
Gary Sanitary District
Hammond Wastewater Treatment Facility
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Inland Steel
Lake County Health Department
LaPorte County Health Department
LTV Steel
Michigan City Sanitary District
Midwest Steel
Mishawaka Wastewater Treatment Facility
Portage Water Reclamation Facility
Porter County Health Department
South Bend Bureau of Environmental Services
US Steel
Valparaiso Pollution Control Facility

Maps showing the locations of the sampling sites are available by clicking on a specific area listed below.

Grand Calumet River

Little Calumet River

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore beaches

Trail Creek

St. Joseph River

Clean Water Action Plan

On October 18, 1997, the 25th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Vice President Gore directed the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with other federal agencies and the public to prepare an aggressive Action Plan to meet the promise of clean, safe water for all Americans. The President has proposed $568 million in new resources in his fiscal year 1999 budget to carry out the plan. The Action Plan "builds on the solid foundation of existing clean water programs and proposes new actions to strengthen efforts to restore and protect water resources."177 Additional information on the Clean Water Action Plan can be found at Internet address http://www.cleanwater.gov.

Grand Calumet River Restoration Fund

Three Northwest Indiana companies agreed in September 1996 to contribute $5.5 million to a trust fund for the dredging of severely contaminated sediments from the Grand Calumet River and for the restoration of damaged wetlands and wildlife habitat along its banks. Cerestar USA Inc. (formerly American Maize Corn Products), the Keil Chemical Division of Ferro Corp., and Lever Brothers had been accused in a federal lawsuit of discharging untreated or inadequately treated industrial pollutants into local sewage treatment plants, killing the bacteria used to treat sewage and causing untreated sewage to contaminate the river. The companies agreed to put $4.7 million into the "Grand Calumet River Restoration Fund" and to pay $600,000 in civil penalties to the US Treasury. Steps also will be taken by the companies to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act.178


Sediment Cleanup and Restoration Alternatives Project

The Sediment Cleanup and Restoration Alternatives Project (SCRAP) is a joint project involving the IDEM and the Corps of Engineers directed to facilitating environmental cleanup and restoration of the Grand Calumet River and Indiana Harbor Ship Canal Area of Concern. The project consolidates and synthesizes available information about sediment contamination, sediment volume, hydrology, and habitat. The project is a reach by reach analysis of sediment remediation and restoration that allows stakeholders to decide how to effectively manage cleanup and restoration.179

Trail Creek Management Plan

The Trail Creek Management Plan was instituted in October 1993 to help prevent nonpoint source pollution from impact the waters of Trail Creek. Michigan City received a grant to develop the plan. The watershed planning was coordinated by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission and a LaPorte County Soil and Water Conservation District provided technical expertise for the watershed plan. A Trail Creek Watershed Management Resource Committee, associated with the Trail Creek Improvement Plan Committee, was also formed to provide information, guidance, and facilitation of public input for the development of the watershed plan. The scope of work of the watershed plan incudes stabilizing eroding stream bank sites, conducting an alternative septic system demonstration and education program, and demonstration best management practices to control urban runoff.180


Agricultural Initiatives

New developments in farming practices can play a significant role in pollution prevention. Conservation tillage is designed to reduce soil loss from wind and water. A consequence is the reduction of potential pollutants, particularly to surface and ground water. In the Midwest, where soil erosion by water is a prime concern, conservation tillage refers to a farming system which leaves at least 30% of the soil covered with crop residues after planting. The most common systems in Indiana use chisel plows, tandem discs, field cultivators, and a variety of one-pass tools. Conservation tillage practices help prevent the discharge of two crop nutrients (and potential pollutants): nitrogen and phosphorus. Fertilizer and manure contribute to the production of nitrogen in the form of nitrate. "Consuming large quantities of nitrite in food and drinking water can cause health problems in humans, particularly infants." Phosphorus in excessive levels supports undesirable algal blooms and harms fish populations in lakes and streams.181

Precision farming is a process to increase efficiency in the management of agriculture. The process modifies existing techniques and incorporates new ones to produce a new set of farm management tools. A significant amount of computing and electronics is used at higher than traditional levels through the application of a more sophisticated system approach. The technical groundwork for precision farming was laid in the 1970s, when the Department of Defense began launching global positioning satellites (GPS) to help artillery pieces pinpoint targets and to help submarines determine their locations. Now accessible to civilians, these satellites transmit longitude, latitude, and altitude signals necessary to pinpoint exact locations on earth. The use of electronic geographic information systems (GIS) is another technological advance which support the process. Precision farming can more broadly "be considered as the ability to precisely monitor and assess the agricultural enterprise at a local and farm level and to have sufficient understanding of the process involved to be able to apply the inputs in such a way as to be able to achieve a particular goal." The purpose is to "maximize financial advantage while operating within environmental constraints" and "should be regarded as indivisible from the concept of sustainable land management." Natural resources are employed in a manner which can be maintained for the benefit of future generations.182

Comprehensive planning can help farmers use manure as a more efficient fertilizer while avoiding potential environmental hazards from nutrient runoff. An illustration is the Dairy Manure Management Planning publication developed recently by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, with support from the Indiana State Dairy Association. "Dairy manure is an economical fertilizer resource and can reduce a producer's commercial fertilizer costs by up to $50 per acre. If mishandled, however, dairy manure can contaminate surface and ground waters. Proper storage, handling, and application of manure from dairy operations can protect Indiana's water resources and increase profits for animal and crop enterprises." A manure management plan "brings together information about crops, livestock, and manure handling." Preparing a manure management plan, including assistance from computer programs such as AMANURE or MBUDGET, "takes some effort, but the results are reduced costs" to a farmer's "crop program and [with the benefit of better] environmental protection."183




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