- Associated Press - Monday, August 14, 2017

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (AP) - Northwest Indiana residents are concerned that a plan to store contaminated dredged sediments in a local disposal facility will create health risks and won’t be an effective long-term solution to cleaning an area waterway.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said air monitoring, storing the sediments in wet conditions and a cap at the bottom of the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal in East Chicago will reduce those risks, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported .

Residents have said the proposed 22-foot-deep dredge should be deeper in order to address the more highly contaminated sediments below the surface.

“By leaving the contamination, we cannot bring this property to higher and better uses,” said Thomas Frank, a member of the Community Strategy Group. “A comprehensive cleanup would create jobs and be a long-term solution.”

Comments that University of Iowa researchers submitted to the EPA show they’re concerned that the dredging will expose higher concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls chemicals.

“Our work has shown that this will result in a major increase of release of these toxic chemicals to Lake Michigan and to the air of East Chicago,” researchers wrote.

Capping the sediment will prevent it from being disturbed by passing ships, the EPA said.

Residents are also concerned the disposal facility could increase the risks of toxic chemicals becoming airborne and contaminating nearby areas.

The EPA said PCBs remain tightly bound to sediment particles. The sediment will be kept in a wet state to help eliminate the airborne release of the chemicals, though small amounts may “enter the water phase and evaporate to become airborne.”

The Army Corps of Engineers needs permission from the EPA and the state Department of Environmental Management to proceed with the proposed disposal of about 60,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.nwitimes.com

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