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Hammond officials investigate Grand Calumet River bridge demolition, cite environmental impact

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HAMMOND, Indiana — The city of Hammond wants to know who is using a bulldozer and other equipment to dismantle an abandoned bridge over the Grand Calumet River, causing concerns about potential environmental hazards.

The city received a tip Thursday from someone who said they believed the Monon Bridge was being targeted by scrappers who were removing the metal and throwing the wooden railroad ties into the river, Ronald Novak, director of the Hammond Department of Environmental Management, told The Times of Munster (http://bit.ly/1CluRw6 ). Steel from the bridge also is in the water.

"It is being removed and there are some good portions of the river where bulldozers are going into the riverbank," Novak said.

City records show no permits issued for any work at the site, Novak said. Officials are trying to determine who owns the property.

Novak is concerned about the potential for creosote leaching from the wooden railroad ties in the river. Creosote is derived in part from coal tar and is relatively soluble in water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The agency lists creosote as a carcinogen that can cause damage to the liver and kidneys in exposures to high concentrations.

"It could also cause a jam in the river with rain and ice buildup," Novak said.

Novak and a city inspector saw new aluminum ladders in the water Thursday, which they believed were being used to send workers into the water to cut up the steel to haul away.

Hammond officials put warning stickers on the equipment telling the operators to cease the activity and contact the city immediately.

Novak said he notified Hammond Port Authority Director Milan Kruszynski, who alerted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He also contacted the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which both visited the site Friday.

An IDEM spokeswoman said the agency's investigation is ongoing.


Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com

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