Gary Reaches Agreement on Clean Water Act Violations

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Work to restore the Grand Calumet River has been ongoing for more than 20 years. (photo courtesy U.S. EPA) Work to restore the Grand Calumet River has been ongoing for more than 20 years. (photo courtesy U.S. EPA)

The city of Gary has reached an agreement with state and federal agencies regarding what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls long-standing violations of the Clean Water Act. The agency says the violations include the release of raw sewage into local waterways.

The agreement with the EPA, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management states the city will pay a $75,000 fine and begin taking action to manage sewage overflows over the next 25 years. The city must ensure its wastewater treatment plant sufficiently treats wastewater during all wet weather conditions and develop a long-term control plan to limit combined sewer overflows.

"I am pleased that Mayor (Karen) Freeman-Wilson is addressing this long-standing problem," said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Robert Kaplan. "This is an important step toward cleaning up Northwest Indiana’s waterways."

Additionally, the city will remove invasive plants and restore native plants to an area along the Grand Calumet River. The agreement also addresses PCB contamination in the Ralston Street Lagoon, which was used decades ago to dispose of PCB-contaminated sludge from the wastewater treatment plant. That practice ended in 1988.

The EPA says Gary has 12 combined sewer outfalls, seven of which discharge into the Grand Calumet River and another five which discharge into the Little Calumet River. Last month, a group known as the Grand Calumet River Partners in Restoration received the Chanute Prize from the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana for its work over the last 20 years to bring what it says was known as the most polluted river in the world back to life. 

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