WBEZ | Northwest Indiana http://www.wbez.org/tags/northwest-indiana Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Life in Northwest Indiana's steel closet http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/life-northwest-indianas-steel-closet-110264 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/steel.PNG" style="height: 470px; width: 325px; float: left;" title="" />As Illinois gears up for its first legal same-sex marriages, across the border in Indiana gay marriage is still officially banned.</p><p>Hoosiers say attitudes there are starting to soften, but some workplaces are still more closeted than others.</p><p>A new book reveals a little-known community of LGBT steelworkers who punch in every day at Northwest Indiana&rsquo;s huge steel mills.</p><p>&ldquo;Steel Closets&rdquo; by the author <a href="http://www.annebalay.com/" target="_blank">Anne Balay</a>, documents life in the macho environment of the steel mills where LGBT workers face discrimination and are often afraid to report it to the union.</p><p>Balay, a former English professor at Indiana University Northwest in Gary and the University of Illinois at Chicago, spent five years interviewing some 40 current and former steelworkers for her book.</p><p>She and retired lesbian steelworker Jan Gentry joined WBEZ&rsquo;s Michael Puente at our Crown Point bureau.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 10:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/life-northwest-indianas-steel-closet-110264 From Indiana's icy roads to Sochi's ski slopes http://www.wbez.org/news/indianas-icy-roads-sochis-ski-slopes-109666 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Olympic photog 2-way.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Winter Olympics get underway today in Sochi, Russia. For most athletes, the Olympics are the pinnacle of their sport.</p><p>The same could be said for the journalists covering the games. Guy Rhodes lives in Northwest Indiana and is a freelance photographer who works with the <em>Sun-Times</em> Media Group.</p><p>Today he&rsquo;s in Sochi to shoot the games for <em>USA Today</em>. WBEZ&rsquo;s Michael Puente sat down with Rhodes before he left town to hear how he&rsquo;s preparing for the games &mdash; and the threat of terrorism.&nbsp;</p><p>You can follow Guy Rhodes at the Winter Olympics and see all his photos <a href="http://www.guyrhodes.com/blog" target="_blank">on his blog</a>.</p></p> Fri, 07 Feb 2014 16:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/indianas-icy-roads-sochis-ski-slopes-109666 Three dead in 40-car pileup in Northwest Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/three-dead-40-car-pileup-northwest-indiana-109567 <p><p dir="ltr">Crews are clearing away the last semi-truck from a deadly pileup on Interstate 94 near Michigan City, Ind.</p><p dir="ltr">Three people are confirmed dead after the 40-car crash last night. One person is being treated for life-threatening injuries and another 20 were hurt in the accident.</p><p dir="ltr">The crash occurred amid blowing snow that made it very difficult to see.</p><p dir="ltr">Indiana State Police Sergeant Todd Ringle said investigators aren&rsquo;t sure yet what caused the crash, but he said conditions were so bad that even one vehicle slowing down suddenly could have caused the chain reaction pileup.</p><p dir="ltr">Ringle said they hope to reopen the highway sometime this morning, but he couldn&#39;t guess what time that would be.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him on twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/pksmid">@pksmid</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 24 Jan 2014 06:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/three-dead-40-car-pileup-northwest-indiana-109567 Snow, severe cold shuts down Northwest Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/snow-severe-cold-shuts-down-northwest-indiana-109472 <p><p>Northwest Indiana road conditions are improving but the area is far from normal and may be days away from recovering from an arctic blast of super cold temperatures.</p><p>Motorists and truckers had to deal with closed roads and highways for much of Monday, and after briefly reopening, by 5 p.m., INDOT had once again closed I-65 due to hazardous road conditions; I 80/94 remains open.</p><p>Earlier in the day trucker Tom Kenman of Joliet, IL passed the time in the cab of his semi truck listening to music and reading. Kenman works for a contractor that delivers mail for the U.S. Postal Service. He&rsquo;s ready to return home after being stuck at a Speedway gas station near Interstate 65 and 61st Avenue in Merrillville. As of this morning, it didn&rsquo;t look good for Kenman.</p><p>&ldquo;Things were kind of hazardous. About 6 p.m. (Sunday), things were hazardous so I jumped off on Route (U.S.) 30. I do maybe 20, 25 mph. That&rsquo;s it. Even before they shut it down, I decided forget it. I-65 is a mess. I don&rsquo;t know what I&rsquo;m going to do.</p><p>With most restaurants and businesses closed, even a nearby McDonald&rsquo;s, Kenman waited it out slurping Speedway&rsquo;s coffee and munching doughnuts.&nbsp;</p><p>I-65 was closed to all traffic yesterday afternoon because of heavy snow and slippery conditions. Semi trucks were lined up along U.S. 30 in Merrillville, waiting for I-65 to reopen, along with nearby Interstate 80/94.</p><p>Kenman and other truckers finally got some good news in the afternoon, when the Indiana Department of Transportation reopened I-65 around 2 p.m.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Drivers are advised to use extreme caution, take it slow, and travel at their own risk. Like the majority of roads across Northwest Indiana, and the state, conditions are extremely hazardous and non-emergency travel is strongly discouraged,&rdquo; said INDOT spokesman Matt Deitchley.</p><p>But the respite on I-65 was short-lived as officials would shut it down again only a few hours later.</p><p>Earlier in the day, Deitchley told WBEZ that some drivers had been driving around protective barriers to keep them off of I-94.</p><p>&ldquo;Those roads are shut down, but people are still driving around the barricades anyway. INDOT and Indiana State Police don&rsquo;t have the manpower right now to physically stop these drivers, but the roads are closed,&rdquo; Deitchley said. &ldquo;They are taking their lives in their own hands, and jeopardizing the emergency personnel who may have to rescue them.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/NWI%20Snow%202.jpg" style="height: 263px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Trucks are lined up near a Speedway gas station. This is not a truck stop but truckers had no where to go Monday because nearby I-65 was closed. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" />Drivers should expect to continue to encounter slick conditions and blowing and drifting snow both on the main line interstates and ramps.</p><p>In fact, many motorists in Gary were struggling to drive along Broadway, the city&rsquo;s main drag, with cars getting stuck in snowdrifts.</p><p>Local officials had declared a state of emergency for Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties during Sunday&rsquo;s heavy snow storm.</p><p>Indiana Gov. Mike Pence ordered the Indiana National Guard to help stuck motorists along the highway.</p><p>Much of the state is dealing with heavy snow and severe temperatures but Pence acknowledged at a news conference today in Indianapolis that Northwest Indiana may have been hit the hardest.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">That&rsquo;s why the Republican governor was sending more resources to &ldquo;da Region,&rdquo; often divided from the rest of the state because of political and cultural differences.</div><p>&ldquo;That (Northwest Indiana) is an area of the state, particularly with lake-effect snow, that is no stranger to severe weather events,&rdquo; Pence said, &ldquo;but we&rsquo;re moving resources into the region to recognize that the combination of heavy snow and brutally cold temperatures and wind gusts represents a real public safety hazard.&rdquo;</p><p>Early Monday, even with warnings by police to stay off the roads, some had no choice but to head to work.</p><p>Hammond resident Gus Lopez said driving to his job at ArcelorMittal Steel in neighboring East Chicago felt odd.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really desolate out. Hardly anyone out driving,&rdquo; Lopez told WBEZ. &ldquo;It reminded me of my time in North Dakota, where this type of weather and this type of conditions is not unusual at all for folks up there, that far north.</p><p>And this winter at least, &quot;da Region&quot; is starting to feel more like North Dakota than Northwestern Indiana.</p><p>Most schools in Northwest Indiana will be closed Tuesday but government offices are expected to reopen.</p><p>The Indiana General Assembly is also expected to open its session down in Indianapolis, a day later than originally scheduled.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ NWI Reporter Michael Puente on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" target="_blank">@MikePuenteNews</a>. </em></p></p> Mon, 06 Jan 2014 19:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/snow-severe-cold-shuts-down-northwest-indiana-109472 Northwest Indiana approves Illiana Tollway http://www.wbez.org/news/northwest-indiana-approves-illiana-tollway-109359 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Illiana Vote .jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Northwest Indiana planning officials on Thursday approved moving forward on the Illiana Tollway, a 47-mile, $1.5 billion expressway project that officials in Illinois and Indiana want to build in the far southern reaches of the Chicago metro area.</p><p>Because the roadway will connect the two states, it needed approvals from governmental bodies in both. The project is a joint venture between the Illinois and Indiana departments of Transportation.</p><p>Officials say the tollway will be paid for by private dollars and federal funds.</p><p>The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) approved adding the Illiana Tollway to its Go To 2040 master plan in October, but not before considerable debate and opposition.</p><p>Those opposed, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, said the highway is just too far from densely developed areas to have any significant impact on traffic or economic development.</p><p>Proponents say the Iliana will help alleviate congestion on existing highways, such at Interstate 80/94, by providing an alternate east-west route from I-55 near Wilmington in Illinois&rsquo; Will County to I-65 near Indiana city of Lowell.</p><p>Once CMAP approved the Illiana, it was expected approvals in Northwest Indiana would be a breeze. The proposal did pass overwhelmingly Thursday at the meeting of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC).</p><p>But over the past few weeks, it did draw louder opposing voices than had been anticipated.</p><p>Residents of Lowell strongly objected to the tollway, contending &nbsp;it will destroy existing neighborhoods and cut through farmland.</p><p>Hammond, Ind., Mayor Tom McDermott, Jr., unsuccessfully pressed the board to hold off on today&rsquo;s vote. A voting member of NIRPC, McDermott said more information was needed before the 53-member body made up of elected officials from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties could vote on the matter.</p><p>He also said he believes the highway would do much to divert investment from Hammond, his struggling blue-collar city adjacent to Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;It is what it is. There are a lot of people who are proud of their vote. I&rsquo;m not proud right now,&rdquo; McDermott said late Thursday morning after the session at Woodland Park in Portage, Ind. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no question that it&rsquo;s going to be detrimental to Northwest Indiana. The policy of INDOT [the Indiana Department of Transportation] and the state of Indiana is ignore the problems up north and invest down south.&rdquo;</p><p>But Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, whose city is struggling with disinvestment and high unemployment on a level greater than neighboring Hammond, supports building the tollway.</p><p>She says her city needs to think regionally, something she contends previous mayors avoided.</p><p>&ldquo;It creates economic development opportunities for the region and, in so doing, the citizens of Gary will have an opportunity to benefit from that,&rdquo; Freeman-Wilson said.</p><p>Freeman-Wilson responded to critics who contend that the Illiana will boost the creation of a proposed third major airport for Chicago near Peotone, Ill., in the southern part of Will County and near the route designed for the new highway.</p><p>She says Peotone is no threat to the Gary Chicago International Airport in her city. &ldquo;Is someone going to leave Northwest Indiana and go to an airport in Peotone? The answer has to be no,&rdquo; Freeman-Wilson said.</p><p>McDermott had objected to the &ldquo;weighted&rdquo; vote process, because it gave more influence to the city of Gary. He said Hammond should have had the most votes because it is the largest city in Northwest Indiana, with Gary coming in second by a few hundred residents based on the 2010 census. But the vote was based on population numbers from the 2000 census, when Gary was the largest city.</p><p>McDermott&rsquo;s concern became a moot point, though, because the outcome was so overwhelmingly in favor of the Illiana. After the vote, Freeman-Wilson and other proponents shook hands with union members who will benefit from jobs constructing the tollway.</p><p>Construction could start as soon as 2015, although it &nbsp;is several years away from completion. But congratulatory words arrived from both near and far from supporters.</p><p>&quot;I believe roads mean jobs, and today&#39;s vote on the Illiana Corridor Project brings us one step closer to more jobs for Northwestern Indiana. I am grateful to the members of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission for their vote in favor of this important project, which will bring jobs and economic growth to northwestern Indiana and throughout the state,&rdquo; Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence stated in a written statement. &ldquo;The innovative funding for this project will bring new investment dollars into the state transportation system and allow the Indiana Department of Transportation to make further infrastructure investments that will benefit the region for generations to come.&rdquo;</p><p>Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, his Illinois&rsquo; counterpart, offered his support.</p><p>&ldquo;The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission&rsquo;s vote today is a victory for jobs and economic development in both Indiana and Illinois,&rdquo; Quinn stated. &ldquo;The Illiana Expressway will greatly improve transportation throughout the region, bring thousands of jobs, reduce congestion, and improve safety, job accessibility and air quality. I salute the Indiana officials who continue to partner with us to make the Illiana a reality.&rdquo;</p><p>U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican, described the project as critically important.</p><p>&ldquo;This will stimulate new economic activity and job opportunities in northwest Indiana. Given the fiscal constraints our nation is facing in Washington, the Illiana Expressway is a forward-looking solution that leverages innovative private sector funding sources,&rdquo; Coats said in a written statement.</p><p>For many, today&rsquo;s vote continues a dream of seeing the Illiana become a reality at last. It was first proposed by Chicago&rsquo;s great planner Daniel Burnham a century ago.</p><p>Follow WBEZ Reporter Michael Puente on Twitter @MikePuenteNews.</p></p> Thu, 12 Dec 2013 17:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/northwest-indiana-approves-illiana-tollway-109359 Gov. Pence wants to bring trauma center to Northwest Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/gov-pence-wants-bring-trauma-center-northwest-indiana-107561 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Pence 1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In Northwest Indiana, home to more than 800,000 residents, victims of car accidents or violent crime such as gunshots, often end up having to be transported to Chicago, South Bend or even Indianapolis. That&rsquo;s because the region has no trauma center of its own.</p><p>Indiana Governor Mike Pence soon hopes to change that.</p><p>&ldquo;Our biggest obligation is to see the health and well-being of the people of our state,&rdquo; Pence told WBEZ during a visit to Gary&rsquo;s City Hall on Wednesday.</p><p>Pence arrived to sign Senate Bill 585.&nbsp;Known as the &ldquo;Gary Bill,&rdquo; Senate Bill 585 encompasses a number of provisions to boost economic development in Gary and the surrounding area.</p><p>One provision frees up state money to pay for a study to see if Northwest Indiana does indeed need a trauma center.</p><p>It&rsquo;s the first step toward actually establishing one.</p><p>&ldquo;When you look at a map of Indiana, you can see there is a huge void in Northwest Indiana where we have the crossroads of the America a lots of serious (auto) injuries that take place,&rdquo; said Indiana State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, a Republican from Valparaiso, who supports the idea and was a sponsor of the bill. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s critical that we have this study done to determine in fact that the numbers are there. I think most of think that we do.&rdquo;</p><p>Charbonneau says the issue isn&rsquo;t a question of the quality of care given at local hospitals but the level of care provided, given that some severe injuries require more expertise.</p><p>During his visit to Gary City Hall, Pence recognized an Indiana State Trooper who helped save the life of a child recently. The child had difficulty breathing while traveling with her mother in the car.</p><p>Had the child suffered injuries from a car accident or gunshot wound, she likely would have been transported to the nearest trauma center -- about 40 miles away in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;As we reflected today on some public safety heroes, the most most important obligation we have as a state is to see to the safety and well being of the people of our state,&rdquo; Pence said.</p><p>Proponents say Gary would be the logical place for a trauma center because of its proximity to major highways and a high-crime rate.</p><p><em>Michael Puente covers Northwest Indiana for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" target="_blank">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 06 Jun 2013 08:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gov-pence-wants-bring-trauma-center-northwest-indiana-107561 Former Gary, Indiana Mayor Rudy Clay dies at age 77 http://www.wbez.org/news/former-gary-indiana-mayor-rudy-clay-dies-age-77-107543 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP329880679245.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is remembering her predecessor, Rudy Clay, as an icon in the community.</p><p>Freeman-Wilson issued a statement following Clay&#39;s death Tuesday saying &quot;his heart for the citizens of Gary, Indiana will be remembered and cherished for years to come.&quot;</p><p>Freeman-Wilson&#39;s office says the cause of death has not been confirmed but Clay had been battling prostate cancer for more than two years. He was 77.</p><p>Clay was appointed mayor by Democratic leaders in 2006 and elected to a four-year term the following year. He was seeking-re-election in 2011 when he dropped the effort because of the cancer.</p><p>She says Clay truly cared about people.</p><p>&ldquo;He cared about their everyday needs as simple as whether they could pay their light and gas bills or whether or not they had places to live and places to shop,&rdquo; she told WBEZ.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 05 Jun 2013 08:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/former-gary-indiana-mayor-rudy-clay-dies-age-77-107543 Indiana oil pipeline 'a mixed bag' for environment http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/indiana-oil-pipeline-mixed-bag-environment-107435 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/environmentaldefence/7692693470/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/enbridge%20photo%20courtesy%20Environmental%20Defence%20via%20Flickr.jpg" style="height: 407px; width: 610px;" title="A buried pipeline marker for Enbridge Line 9. (Environmental Defence Canada via Flickr)" /></a></div><p>The Indiana Department of Environmental Management said a new pipeline that would ferry tar sands oil across Northwest Indiana poses no significant risk to water quality in the region. But local environmental groups see cause for concern in lax state and federal regulations, wary of energy company Enbridge&rsquo;s checkered past.</p><p>In 2010 Enbridge&rsquo;s Line 6B pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Mich., <a href="http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20120626/dilbit-diluted-bitumen-enbridge-kalamazoo-river-marshall-michigan-oil-spill-6b-pipeline-epa" target="_blank">spilling more than one million gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River</a>. Years later the cleanup drags on. With a price tag of $810 million, it is the most expensive oil pipeline spill in U.S. history.</p><p>Line 6B begins in Griffith, Ind., less than 10 miles from the Illinois border. The pipeline crosses three river systems in its 60-mile journey across Indiana, all within 20 miles of Lake Michigan through Lake, Porter, LaPorte, and St. Joseph counties. It took several hours to respond to the 2010 spill, and the National Transportation Safety Board ultimately&nbsp;<a href="http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20120710/national-transportation-safety-board-ntsb-kalamazoo-enbridge-6B-pipeline-marshall-michigan" target="_blank">admonished the company</a>&nbsp;for &quot;a complete breakdown of safety.&quot;</p><p>Michigan regulators in February <a href="http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130207/enbridge-6b-pipeline-safety-michigan-public-service-commission-indiana-brandon-township-dilbit-oil-sands-tar-sands" target="_blank">approved the construction of a new 160-mile segment of that line</a>, and Indiana&rsquo;s approval of upgrades to their section of the 43-year-old line was expected, due to its role as a major supplier to Upper Midwest oil refineries.</p><p>But nonprofit group Save the Dunes called the recently issued water quality permit &quot;a mixed bag for the environment.&quot;</p><p>Save the Dunes has not tried to prevent the pipeline replacement, but last year urged Indiana&rsquo;s Department of Environmental Management &quot;to ensure that Enbridge implements every possible precaution to protect the people and natural resources of Northwest Indiana and Lake Michigan.&quot;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/oil-company-hopes-avoid-another-major-leak-93328" target="_blank">upgrades</a> include an expansion of certain sections of the pipeline, which would increase the amount of oil traveling near Lake Michigan. But because it is a replacement and not an entirely new line, the project is not obligated to meet any additional safety standards. Nonetheless, in their permit, IDEM ensured Enbridge will hire independent environmental monitors to oversee construction &mdash; the first time it has included such a provision in a construction project and &ldquo;a positive precedent,&rdquo; according to Nathan Pavlovic, land and advocacy specialist for Save the Dunes. But that provision does not extend to the entire project.</p><p>&ldquo;The pipeline does need to be replaced for safety reasons,&rdquo; Pavlovic said. &ldquo;However, as the company plans to triple the amount of oil moving through our region, we need to ask whether the safety of our natural resources and communities will be increased proportionally.&rdquo;</p><p>Enbridge has committed to treating the whole 6B as a &ldquo;high consequence area&rdquo; due to its proximity to the lake, requiring greater internal scrutiny, and it <a href="http://www.enbridgeus.com/Media-Center/News/2013/1813689/" target="_blank">established an online training course for emergency responders</a>.</p><p>Among the safety increases Save the Dunes wanted but did not get are guarantees that Enbridge will use state-of-the-art concrete caps and domestically produced steel, as well as leak detectors that would warn when as little as three gallons of oil are spilled. But more broadly speaking, environmental groups said the law should push pipeline companies to more carefully consider alternate routes when a route would skirt a major source of drinking water like Lake Michigan.</p><p>&ldquo;IDEM, through its certification, is allowing Enbridge to disregard alternate pipeline routes and other opportunities to reduce and eliminate water quality impacts, in likely violation of the Clean Water Act,&rdquo; said Kim Ferraro, staff attorney at the Hoosier Environmental Council.</p><p>Both Michigan and Illinois have laws governing interstate pipeline routing, requiring companies to assess environmental and community risks, but currently Indiana does not.</p><p>The pipeline still needs the approval of the Army Corps of Engineers. Save the Dunes and the Hoosier Environmental Council will focus efforts there, and in LaPorte County, where the Joint Zoning Ordinance sets strong standards for water resource protection on all new development. They are also <a href="http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/News-by-Topic/Global-Warming/2013/03-26-13-NWF-Led-Coalition-Calls-for-Stronger-Tar-Sands-Pipeline-Standards.aspx" target="_blank">petitioning federal agencies for stricter standards</a>.</p><p>Enbridge moves more oil from Canada into the U.S. than any other company, with more than 15,000 miles of pipeline transporting crude oil. For many North American environmental groups the company has become a target for climate change action. The Indiana and Michigan projects are part of $2.2 billion plan to upgrade Enbridge&rsquo;s Lakehead system of pipelines that encircle Lake Michigan, which climate activists worry will just hasten the impacts of global warming by facilitating the continued combustion of fossil fuels.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Thu, 30 May 2013 12:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/indiana-oil-pipeline-mixed-bag-environment-107435 Northwest Indiana judge to head state child welfare agency http://www.wbez.org/news/northwest-indiana-judge-head-state-child-welfare-agency-105230 <p><p>A longtime juvenile court judge in Northwest Indiana will lead the state&rsquo;s embattled child welfare agency.</p><p>Mary Beth Bonaventura has been the senior judge for the juvenile court system in Lake County, Indiana for the last 20 years.</p><p>She&rsquo;s developed a reputation for being tough but fair, often presiding over cases involving teens facing charges for murder, drug offenses and sex crimes.</p><p>But soon, Bonaventura will step down to head Indiana&rsquo;s Department of Child Services.</p><p>Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced the change yesterday.</p><p>&ldquo;Judge Bonaventura is uniquely qualified to lead the state&#39;s Department of Child Services and help to protect Hoosier children from abuse and neglect,&quot; Pence stated in a written statement.</p><p>Indiana&rsquo;s DCS been criticized for acting too slow to prevent child abuse or child deaths.</p><p>Indiana lawmakers have been trying to develop ways to improve the system. In Pence&rsquo;s state of the state address last week, he says he will allocate an additional $35 million a year to the IDCS to help better investigate child abuse cases.</p><p>The department has been scrutinized over child-abuse deaths in recent years, including the case of Christian Choate of Northwest Indiana. The 13-year-old Choate had been abused and kept in a cage by his own parents which lead to his death but he wasn&rsquo;t found until two years after his death.</p><p>His body was buried in a shallow grave in a mobile home park in Gary, Indiana in May 2011. His father, 40-year-old Riley Choate, was sentenced this month to 80 years in prison for his son&rsquo;s death.</p><p>They boy&rsquo;s step-mother, Kimberly Kubina, is scheduled to be sentenced in February for her connection to the case. Indiana State Rep. Linda Lawson, a Democrat from Hammond, lauds Bonaventura&rsquo;s appointment.</p><p>&ldquo;It is one of the best things that can happen to kids in the state of Indiana,&rdquo; Lawson, a former Hammond police detective, said Wednesday. &ldquo;She has got the right idea of what needs to happen. She is willing to take on parents. She&rsquo;s willing to take on the system. She&rsquo;s willing to take on attorneys, law enforcement. If it&rsquo;s not right for kids. She really cares.&rdquo;</p><p>In announcing the appointment, Pence said Lake County&rsquo;s Juvenile Court system is one of the toughest ones in the state of Indiana.</p><p>In 2008, former Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed Bonaventura as a member of the Indiana Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services.</p><p>In 2009, she was named Chair of the Civil Rights of Children Committee for the Indiana State Bar Association and the former Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Randall T. Shepard appointed Bonaventura as Chair of the Child Welfare Improvement Committee.</p><p>&quot;She is a strong leader who has an impeccable reputation of integrity and compassion for children,&rdquo; Pence added.</p><p>A native of East Chicago, Bonaventura is a life-long Lake County resident. She received her undergraduate degree from Marian University in Indianapolis and her law degree from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.</p><p>In 2008, the Indiana Supreme Court allowed a documentary firm to video tape proceedings in Bonaventura&rsquo;s courtroom. Previously, the Supreme Court had never allowed cameras in the courtroom. The result was a mini-reality series for MTV called &ldquo;Juvies.&rdquo;</p><p>MSNBC also airs a reality series featuring Bonaventura&rsquo;s court called &ldquo;Lake County Lockup.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 30 Jan 2013 19:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/northwest-indiana-judge-head-state-child-welfare-agency-105230 Grand Calumet River delivers toxic load to Lake Michigan http://www.wbez.org/news/grand-calumet-river-delivers-toxic-load-lake-michigan-105165 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The-Grand-Calumet-by-Lloyd-DeGrane.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="The Grand Calumet River in Northwest Indiana. (Lloyd DeGrane)" />The Grand Calumet River system winds for 13 miles through a Northwest Indiana industrial landscape that could almost be described as post-apocalyptic.</p><p>Alongside the several branches of the slow-moving waterway, a steel mill, gypsum plant and other heavy industry spew plumes of steam into the air while vines and shrubs grow inside vacant crumbling brick buildings.&nbsp; A fragment of the partially demolished Cline Avenue bridge still stands, twisted rebar and chunks of concrete hanging from each end. A rusty abandoned motorboat bobs half-sunken next to a soiled brown floating absorbent boom.</p><p>The Grand Calumet has long been known as one of the nation&rsquo;s most polluted rivers. It is one of 43 federal Areas of Concern targeted for remediation in the Great Lakes region. For many decades before the 1972 Clean Water Act, countless industries dumped contaminated waste into the river with abandon.&nbsp; Gary, East Chicago and Hammond discharge untreated sewage and storm water into it.</p><p>The Grand Calumet consists of two forks that join and empty into Lake Michigan via the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal and Indiana Harbor, in East Chicago. Though the land right around the river mouth is not open to the public, local residents fish, swim, boat and wade at nearby beaches, harbors and weedy access points.</p><p>The Grand Calumet&rsquo;s impact on this near shore area is hard to quantify given the way contaminants disperse quickly in Lake Michigan. But experts with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management say the river surely harms near shore lake water quality and habitat as it empties one billion gallons of water into Lake Michigan each day.</p><p>That flow includes material from overflowing sewers during heavy rains, contaminated sediment pulled from the river bottom, industrial run-off and contaminated groundwater.</p><p>Daunting as this toxic brew may sound, the Grand Calumet is getting cleaned up. Hence the near shore area of Lake Michigan should reap significant environmental and ecological benefits as well.</p><p>State and federal environmental officials are about halfway through a massive project to remove contaminated sediment and restore wetlands. And the state environmental agency is working with municipalities to reduce sewage overflow during rains.</p><h2><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Calumet-Industrial-Canal-by-Lloyd-DeGrane.jpg" style="width: 350px; float: right; height: 232px;" title="The Calumet Industrial Canal. (Lloyd DeGrane)" /><strong>A legacy of contamination</strong></h2><p>The Grand Calumet was &ldquo;originally mostly a slowly meandering wetland complex,&rdquo; said Jim Smith, an Indiana state natural resource damage coordinator. But with widespread dredging, channelizing, damming and the building of the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal which makes up the final stretch into the lake, &ldquo;the flow regime of the river has changed.&rdquo;</p><p>Today, in fact, municipal and industrial effluent makes up 90 percent of the river&rsquo;s flow.</p><p>&ldquo;There were industries from meatpacking to lumber to brickmaking and metal shops on the west branch to the big steel mills and the petroleum industry,&rdquo; Smith noted. &ldquo;Pipelines and everything came through this area. Also the municipalities developed their sewers going directly into the river. There was domestic contamination from human origin to organic stuff from the petroleum industry and steelmaking.</p><p>&ldquo;The river was the disposal point for years.&rdquo;</p><p>The river&rsquo;s sediment contains harmful metals and carcinogenic compounds including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, chromium and lead from the decades of industrial dumping. A&nbsp; 2000 study prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found serious concerns and impacts from contaminated sediment in the Grand Calumet.</p><p>The river is also contaminated by leaching and run-off from nearby waste disposal sites and contaminated groundwater, according to the Areas of Concern website.&nbsp; It is even harmed by atmospheric deposition of contaminants from fossil fuel burning and waste incineration.</p><p>There are more than 460 underground storage tanks containing chemical and petroleum waste products in the area, the website says, and at least 150 leaking tank reports have been filed with the county.</p><p>&ldquo;The contaminants we&rsquo;re talking about affect organisms and can directly or indirectly affect the food chain,&rdquo; said Scott Ireland, U.S. EPA special assistant for the senior adviser to the administrator on the Great Lakes. &ldquo;They could wipe out the benthic community, so fish are not able to eat, or fish eat (benthic organisms) and are contaminated; then the contamination will enter the food chain. If humans eat the fish, they are taking up those contaminants as well.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://greatlakesecho.org" target="_blank">Great Lakes Echo</a> is a project of the <a href="http://ej.msu.edu/index2.php" target="_blank">Knight Center for Environmental Journalism</a> at Michigan State University.</em></p></p> Sat, 26 Jan 2013 10:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/grand-calumet-river-delivers-toxic-load-lake-michigan-105165