Background

The Army Corp of Engineers (Corps) operates the Chicago Area Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) located at 3600 East 95th St. in Chicago. The approximately 43-acre dredged material disposal facility is used for the handling and disposal of dredged material from the Chicago Area Waterway System including the Calumet River and Harbor.

The CDF was constructed between 1982 - 1984. The facility is designed to receive dredged material from federal navigation projects in the Chicago district.

Environmental Justice

The Chicago CDF is located in a area of Environmental Justice (EJ) concern as determined by the Illinois EPA demographic screening tool EJ Start.

Water Pollution Control Permit

The Illinois EPA (Agency) Bureau of Water permit regulates the discharge of dredge return water to the Calumet River.  The conditions of this permit require the permittee to meet numerical regulatory standards as well as conduct sampling, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting. The permit has been renewed numerous times since construction of the facility with the most recent renewal issued June 7, 2016.

Renewal and Vertical Expansion

On March 29, 2021, the Corps submitted an application to the Bureau of Water to renew the water pollution control permit and vertically expand the CDF. The application is under review by the Bureau of Water. Once application review is complete, the Agency will hold a written public comment period and public hearing to allow for public input into the expansion application. Notification for such hearing will be posted to the Agency website at https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/public-notices/Pages/general-notices.aspx. If you would like to be added to the Agency mailing list for this facility so that you receive direct notification, please e-mail the contact listed below.

Temporary extension of the Water Pollution Control Permit

On April 28, 2021, the Corps submitted an application to the Bureau of Water for a short-term renewal of the Water Pollution Control permit. The Corps has requested a short-term renewal to complete the currently scheduled Calumet Harbor navigational dredging project in the spring and summer of 2022.

There is no statutory or regulatory requirement for public outreach on state water pollution control permits.  However, the Agency recognized the public interest in the proposed temporary extension and expansion of the facility and that the facility is located in an area of Environmental Justice concern and determined that enhanced public outreach was warranted consistent with the Agency's EJ Policy.  As a result, the Agency provided a public comment period accepting written public comments from June 30, 2021 to July 31, 2021.  The Agency then held a second public comment period from September 3, 2021 to October 26, 2021 to accept additional written comments and also held a question and answer session on October 5, 2021 to answer questions from the public as an assistance to the development of written comments. Written comments from both comment periods were reviewed as part of the Bureau of Water’s deliberation on the permit.

On December 10, 2021, the Bureau of Water issued a temporary extension of the water pollution control permit. The extension allows for continued operation of the facility for one year from the issuance date. Additional conditions have been added to the permit to address public comments.

Based on questions and comments received from stakeholders during the comment periods, the following conditions were added to the permit draft.

  • A stormwater management plan was added as a component of a set of new stormwater related conditions. 
  • Separate analyses of the near dike samples are now required by new condition number 13 of the permit. This change will triple the analytical sensitivity of the sampling plan for the near dike area.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and Mercury have been added to all monitoring requirements including at the outfall pipe.
  • A condition was added stating that a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is required if the permittee engages in processing of dredged materials for commercial purposes.
  • To demonstrate compliance with the Lake Michigan Nearshore Toxics Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) approved in 2019, a condition was added requiring the permittee to develop an investigatory study on aquatic life food web impacts.
  • A condition was added advising the permittee that an individual Clean Water Act Section 401 certification may be required because of recent changes to the Agency’s Nationwide certification.

Sampling

The previous permit required weekly water quality monitoring during dredging activities and in years when no dredging occurred, a one-time routine monitoring event was required. The monitoring conducted during dredging activities consists of analyzing samples taken from surface water sites along the facility’s rock dike, near the dredge equipment and barge, upstream and downstream of the discharge outfall, at background locations within the outer harbor, within the settling pond, and from samples taken from groundwater wells and the filter cell outlet. Routine monitoring consists of one sample from each of the sample locations used for dredging activity monitoring except the outfall and dredge barge location.

The renewed short-term permit increases the number of samples from near-dike locations that get analyzed as separate samples. Additionally, PCBs and Mercury have been added to the list of constituents to be analyzed for all surface water quality testing.

Inspections

The Bureau of Water will be conducting an inspection of the site during normal operations, as part of the next dredging operation.  This inspection will be done to monitor compliance with the terms and condition of the reissued permit.

Contact

Sabrina Bailey
Illinois EPA
Office of Community Relations
Sabrina.bailey@illinois.gov

Links & Documents

WPC permit - temporary extension