2019 GLISA Small Grant: Calumet Connect: Modernizing the Calumet River Industrial Corridor

Project Summary

Chicago’s Southeast Side faces some of the city’s worst economic and health conditions including lack of public infrastructure investments, industrial pollution, and health inequities. Massive storms have caused extreme flooding and combined sewer overflows in the nearby Calumet River, exposing residents to contaminated water-based illnesses, toxic chemicals from nearby industries, and poor quality air that is exacerbated by extreme heat. This project will support the work of the Calumet Connect partners on the Southeast Side, who are working with the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and the Chicago Public Health Department on two initiatives: the Calumet River industrial corridor modernization plan and a city-wide stormwater management strategy and maintenance program. They are developing a multi-year strategy focused on passing and ensuring equitable implementation of policies that integrate equity, health, and climate and will identify a portfolio of funding and financing to ensure the strategy being developed can be implemented and maintained. The Calumet Connect partners have also incorporated the current issues of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic threats, and racial injustice, recognizing that immediate challenges reinforce previous social inequalities around water and air quality. Deliverables include: presentations describing the historical and projected trends; a climate and health fact sheet; and an evaluation of the ways residents have adapted. GLISA is working with the Alliance for the Great Lakes and Calumet Connect to survey the members regarding their level of political advocacy (as an indicator of expertise) and their social networks. GLISA is analyzing these data to support a network intervention to better facilitate knowledge flows about political advocacy and environmental health risks.

Project Accomplishments

Research Findings

  • Many of the concerns involving health impacts focused on Calumet residents’ exposure and risk to extreme heat, extreme precipitation, and air quality issues.
  • The main health concerns in Calumet include respiratory diseases (i.e., asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]) and lung cancer due to the air quality and noxious emissions in the community.

GLISA Contribution

GLISA funded this 2019 small grant project and is partnering with the grantee to connect climate information to health impacts in the Calumet Industrial Corridor. GLISA presented historical observations and future projections for the area and northeastern Illinois, and we worked with the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Calumet Industrial Corridor Working Group to integrate the climate information into their community resources, such as the Calumet Connect Databook.

Project Partners

  • Alliance for the Great Lakes (grantee)
  • Calumet Industrial Corridor Working Group
  • Southeast Environmental Task Force

GLISA Contact

Omar Gates, Climatologist, gateso@umich.edu


Related Engagements: