HAMMOND, Ind. Jan. 30, 2015 | Someone is dismantling the Monon Bridge over the Grand Calumet River in Hammond, sending railroad ties and hunks of steel into the waterway and officials are working to determine the culprit.
Ronald Novak, director of the Hammond Department of Environmental Management, said he received an anonymous tip around noon Thursday from someone suspecting scrappers were removing the metal and throwing the wooden railroad ties into the river.
"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.
The work is taking place in an area west of Hohman Avenue, east of State Line Avenue, south of Marble Street and north of Industrial Road.
Novak is concerned about environmental hazards from the work, including the potential for leaching creosote 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 ATSDR 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 build up," Novak said.
Novak and a city inspector observed shiny, new aluminum ladders in the water on Thursday which they believed were being used to send workers into the water to cut up the steel parts to haul away.
Novak said he contacted Hammond Port Authority Director Milan Kruszynski, who alerted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Novak on Friday morning contacted the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to report the issue as well.