Among the major factors that changed
of the Calumet region were the filling in of thousands of acres of
It is estimated that there were originally over 20,000 acres of
in the Illinois portion of the Calumet area. Approximately 500 acres
Cheap land was purchased and filled in with slag, dredge spoils, and
materials so that factories and residential housing could be built.
shorelines were changed, most noticeably by the construction of U. S.
South Works and the State Line Generating Station. Calumet Park is
mostly slag. After WWII the construction of the Calumet Expressway, the
construction of the Nike site near Wolf Lake, and the coming of the
disposal industry with incinerators and landfills further contributed
environmental damage in the area.
Dumping Slag, a Common Fill Material
Steel industry waste is the most widespread fill type that is used in this area. These wastes consist of mainly slag. Slag, a byproduct of the reduction of iron ore and iron to steel, has been the principal fill material in the Calumet region since the early 1900's. Steel industry wastes make up most of the fill around Wolf Lake, Lake George, the western shore of Lake Calumet and the Little Calumet River. Slag has also been used as the foundation for streets, bridges, railroads, and highways in the area.
Dredging spoil is primarily sand and silt. It is usually found in small, thin, strips along the banks of the Cal Sag Channel, and the Calumet and Little Calumet Rivers. At some locations along the Calumet and Little Calumet Rivers, spoil piled along riverbanks was removed and placed in centralized disposal sites east of Lake Calumet.
Biological sludge, which is primarily sanitary sewage, is also used as a type of fill. These sludges are biologically treated and the water is taken out of it before removal and disposed of at a sanitary landfill. Construction debris consists of concrete, wood, and brick which is produced from the demolition of buildings and roads. Grant Park in Chicago was created with debris from the Chicago Fire of 1871. Most of the debris used as fill in this area was deposited near Lake Calumet. This material has also been used for roadbed for the railroad lines.
Fill deposits serve a beneficial purpose, which was helpful to the development of the city of Chicago. Without fills we would not have been able to build up the city as we have today. Without the fill deposits we would not have all the land in which to expand the industries like the steel mills. Since the lands by large bodies of water are softer than other land and not really safe to build on, they need to put something in the ground to make it more stable. By doing so they are then sure that the ground would support houses, roads or, in this case, big factories. Some lakes in the area have been completely filled in to create land for the steel manufacturing, petroleum refining, and storage. The lakes that are now completely covered because of this are Hyde Lake, Deer Lake, and Berry Lake. There are still other lakes that have been partially filled. This was done with the southern part of Lake George, the northern and southern parts of Wolf Lake, and about half of Lake Calumet. Fill deposits are everywhere.
Fill in the Calumet area has been identified from as far back as 1840, the approximate beginning of the industrial and residential development. Large-scale fill deposits in this area began with the onset of industrialization, which was in 1870. Hyde Lake was almost completely filled by the year 1902. Between the time of 1902 and 1927, a large amount of fill was deposited as industrial activity was accelerated. Also, Lake Michigan near the Calumet Harbor was being filled in. Fills of course were also placed near the area where steel was manufactured along the Calumet and Little Calumet Rivers.
During this time several rail lines were expanded and new ones were built, which required more fills for roadbeds. The western half of Lake Calumet continued to be filled between the periods of 1902 and 1927. Between 1928 and 1953 there was a large increase in the area used for fill. During this time the steel industry continued to expand the use of fills around the Little Calumet River, Wolf Lake, and the east bank of the Calumet River. Filling of Lake Calumet continued with the establishment of solid-waste landfills along the northern shore by the city of Chicago in 1940. Between 1965 and 1977 in comparison to previous periods, a fairly small amount of new land was used for fill deposition. The period from 1978 to 1993 was marked by sanitary landfills at facilities in the vicinity of Lake Calumet.
Fills are clearly a major part of the development of the Calumet region. Without fills we would not have the structures we have now. We would not be able to have roads, railroads, and buildings, all of which are a major part in the development of the city industrially. Not only do fills allow us to built on places where it would otherwise be impossible, but fills also supposedly allow wastes to go to good use. Where else would we put the excess sand, clay, ash, etc. that we have from the factories themselves? Fills, though it may not seem like it, are essential to the Calumet region. Whether fills are good or bad is, of course, not universally agreed upon.
Fill deposits eliminate wetlands and areas which provide habitats and environments for many types of biological entities, thereby contributing to their decline. Fill deposits alter the natural landscape and change the environment. Therein lies their harmful effects. (Article by Teresa E. Information from "Fill Deposits in the Calumet Region" by Robert Kay et. al.)