Shifting Sands: The Restoration of the Calumet Area

By Kenneth J. Schoon | Go to book overview

10
THE ROAD TO CLEANER WATER

Just as it is particularly blessed, Northwest Indiana is particularly
challenged to achieve a cleaner, safer, richer environment and a
sustainable balance between nature and the built environment.

One Region, Northwest Indiana Profile

ACCORDING TO THE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENtal Management (IDEM), the state has 63,130 miles of rivers, streams, ditches, and drainage ways within its borders.1 Fifty years ago many of them were in bad shape. The worst was the Grand Calumet River, a waterway that was in effect a free disposal system for municipal and industrial waste.2

Today, it’s a different story. Hoosier waters are cleaner and safer. The cleanup has been slow, but steady. Attitudes are different as well. Rivers are no longer thought of as natural sewers. Citizens now become upset when municipalities or industries even accidentally pour pollutants into rivers and streams.

Although early laws made it illegal to dump pollutants into lakes and streams, federal legislation in the 1970s strengthened these rules and finally made enforcement a reality. But at that time few municipalities, businesses, or industries felt that they could afford to clean up their effluent, especially if no one else did. Cleanup would be and has been expensive. Removing pollutants from effluent has made a big difference in water quality, but it didn’t remove the contaminated sediments deposited over a century of unregulated disposal. That took more effort.


DRAINAGE SWALES AND SEWERS

In many communities, aboveground drainage ditches or swales were often the first public improvement designed to quickly move waters from

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