A sign near the Cal Sag channel, part of the Calumet River System, warns against “any human body contact.”Photo courtesy Tom Gill via FlickrThe Grand Calumet River is about 13 miles long and flows through one of the most industrialized areas in the United States. At one time, the river’s branches and tributaries flowed throughout northwest Indiana and supported globally unique fish and wildlife. Today, thanks to being moved and manipulated by humans over the years, the Calumet river system is one of the smallest watersheds in the region, and there are stretches of river that support nothing but sludge worms.
How did this happen? Two words: people and industry.
Over the last 100 years, the industrialization of northwest Indiana has created the landscape -– and the river — we see today. Unmanaged pollution from industrial activities and human development has severely degraded the ecological integrity of the watershed.
The sources of pollution include urban runoff, landfills, dumpsites, industrial manufacturing and processing, and sewage treatment plants. The river has high levels of bacteria, nutrients, cyanides, lead, arseni... Read more