Case in Point: The J-Pit
The J-Pit site in western Gary illustrates many aspects of environmental injustice in the Region: the complexity of the problems, the difficulty of community action, the lack of actionable information, but also the enduring determination of local communities to resist.
The J-Pit is a vast abandoned sand mine, covering 114 acres and excavated to 35 feet below ground level. Politically and economically, it represents a five-decade legacy of prevarication and broken promises. Environmentally, it is an ongoing hazard on multiple levels.
The Westside neighborhood that surrounds the J-Pit exemplifies many common themes in environmental injustice: it is severely economically depressed and politically isolated.
The J-Pit’s story begins with the original promise that the sand mine would be turned into a sportsman’s club. The property owners later tried to turn the site into a dump instead, an effort defeated only by decades of determined local resistance.
Today, the J-Pit is being gradually filled in under a contract between the City and Beemsterboer Slag Corporation. The contract specifies that only clean, unregulated fill is to be used, but community residents have seen noncompliant fill being dumped, and no effective oversight appears to be in place.
It is also unclear whether the City has acquired the necessary permits for discharging water from the J-Pit into the Little Calumet, or what contaminants may be present in the discharged water.
The community environmental monitoring conducted as part of the needs assessment indicated suspicious increases in nitrate and chloride levels in the Little Calumet near the J-Pit discharge point.
The filling of the pit may also be having an unknown effect on the flow of contaminated groundwater in the area, which has traditionally drained into the J-Pit and been pumped out. The water quality monitoring that local residents conducted showed extremely alkaline runoff on roadsides and ditches near the Gary Sanitary Landfill.
The Times of Northwest Indiana published an article about the J-Pit based on this study. It was the first news coverage that the troubled site had received in more than two years.
For detailed information on the J-Pit, see Part V of the report.