The 14 Beneficial Use Impairments

The goal of the Remedial Action Plan for the Grand Calumet River/Indiana Harbor Ship Canal Area of Concern is to restore the area’s 14 beneficial uses so they are no longer impaired. A Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) means a change to the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of the area that is sufficient to cause:

  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor
  • Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  • Fish tumors or other deformities
  • Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems
  • Degradation of benthos (aquatic organisms that live on, in, or near the bottom of waterways)
  • Restriction on dredging activities
  • Eutrophication or undesirable algae (see IDEM’s Algae in Aquatic Ecosystems Fact Sheet, available on the IDEM Fact Sheets page, for more information)
  • Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor problems
  • Beach closings
  • Degradation of aesthetics
  • Added costs to agriculture and industry
  • Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat

Removal of BUIs:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) refers to the restoration of each BUI as “removing a BUI.” Removing a BUI is a complex process and no two BUIs follow exactly the same steps. However, the general process is similar in all cases. First, exact removal targets for the BUI in question are developed by IDEM, with the assistance of the CARE committee and state and federal partners. Next, a list of management actions is developed that is anticipated to result in BUI removal. Each management action generally consists of a project or regulatory action to be undertaken by IDEM or one of its partners. Often Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) or other federal funding is utilized to conduct the projects.

Once all of the management actions for removal of a BUI are completed, IDEM will collect monitoring data to evaluate their effectiveness. Often, the environment requires additional time to recover after the completion of the management actions. After sufficient improvement to the environmental conditions occurs, such that the removal targets have been met, the time is right for removal of the BUI. At that time, IDEM will submit a recommendation to U.S. EPA, accompanied by appropriate data and documentation, to formally remove a BUI from the Area of Concern (AOC).

Even with the vast amount of restoration work going on in the Grand Calumet River and Indiana Harbor Ship Canal AOC, it still remains impaired for many BUIs. IDEM’s efforts, with the support and advice of the CARE Committee, have resulted in U.S. EPA removing these BUIs:

  • BUI #12: Added costs to agriculture and industry (removed in 2011)
  • BUI #9: Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor problems (removed in 2012)

Future Work and AOC Delisting:

IDEM is required to develop all of its management actions for 11 of the 12 remaining BUIs by December 31, 2020. In addition, the five management action items anticipated to lead to the removal of the two habitat-related BUIs:

  • BUI #3: Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Population
  • BUI #14: Loss of fish and wildlife habitat

are also required to be completed by that date. Once all 12 remaining BUIs are removed, IDEM will submit a recommendation to U.S. EPA to delist the AOC.

BUI Removal Documents: