Shifting Sands: The Restoration of the Calumet Area

By Kenneth J. Schoon | Go to book overview

9
THE ROAD TO CLEANER AIR

A MAJOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE EFFORTS ONE HUNDRED years ago and those today is that we no longer just want parks to be established so that we can retreat to them to get fresh air—we want the cities’ air to be fresh as well! Air pollution comes from both natural and human-related sources. Natural sources include volcanic eruptions and sometimes wind-blown dust. Human-related sources include moving vehicles and stationary sources of all sizes, from large factories and mills to small dry cleaners.

Fifty years ago the air pollution problem in Northwest Indiana was obvious to even the casual visitor. Particulate matter pollution in Lake County was for decades the worst in the state. In the 1970s and ‘80s, the county’s total suspended particulates frequently exceeded health standards by significant margins. One event that significantly reduced particulate matter in the air was the closure of Inland Steel’s heavily polluting coke ovens.

Even as recently as 2002, ozone was still difficult to reduce. Lake County was within the Chicago/Northwest Indiana severe nonattainment area for ozone, that is, an area in which the ozone level is significantly higher than what is considered acceptable by EPA. The highest levels were often recorded during extremely hot summers.

Several process changes in the county have led to a significant reduction of lead in the air. The federal phaseout of lead in gasoline has reduced lead concentrations. The two Hammond Lead plants both upgraded theirventilation and filtration systems, goingbeyond what was required bylaw. The East Chicago U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery closed in 1985.

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