US Steel South Works

This innovative project provided topsoil to a new Chicago lake front park at the old US Steel South Works mill. The soil was dried mud from the bottom of Lake Peoria 168 miles downstream. The project simultaneously helped restore depth to the lake while covering a slag field with topsoil. The photos below follow the work on the project, which began in April of 2004. Scroll to the bottom to see the first photos. This project was part of the Mud to Parks program.

December 8, 2004. Chicago.

Grass is established on the site as winter approaches, despite dry weather after seeding. Freezing and thawing over the winter will loosen the soil and help develop granular soil structure.

grass covered fieldroad to the left of grass fieldlandscape version of grass field

September 26, 2004. Chicago.

The seeded southern field is fairly level and awaiting rain. The vegetation on the western edge of the field was not disturbed by the bulldozers to provide protection against erosion.

field of dried mudclose up of field of dried mudmored dried mud

September 18, 2004. Chicago.

A low ground pressure bulldozer spent several days pushing over the piled soil and spreading it over the southern field. The depth varies between two and four feet. An ATV was used to spread perennial rye grass seed over the site. Weather permitting, It will germinate this fall and provide cover. The material on the northern site will not be bulldozed this year.

bulldozer turning soil over ATV spredding seeds close up of ATV spredding perennial seeds

September 2, 2004. Chicago.

Scientists from the Illinois Natural History Survey make their third visit to the site. They identified 79 species of vascular plants that were not deliberately planted on site. Many of these were wetland species which likely grew from the seed bank in the sediment. Others were upland species from seeds originally on site or in the sediment. It was impossible to verify the origin of many because the heavy equipment mixed some slag with the mud. Only one species was found which was not already known from the Chicago area. This plant Amaranthus blitum had not previously been recorded in Illinois. Plants were six or more feet high on some of the older piles. An endloader cut into one of the piles to expose its interior.

On the northern site the sunflower plot was in full bloom. Grass, alfalfa and volunteer cottonwood seedlings dominated the rest of the site. The alfalfa and seedlings were showing stress, most likely because of the dry weather.

researchers checking the progress of the soil and plantings plantings are as tall as the researchers wet mud
thickness of the mud pile is as high as the researchers as shown by a dug out spot in the mud/soil researcher standing next to sunflowers planted on top dried cracked mud sunflowers and other plantings on top of the dried mud

August 13, 2004. Chicago.

The plot of annual rye grass planted in April is setting seed. A block of soil pulled from the pile has grass roots extending all the way down the desiccation cracks. Roots completely penetrate the first few inches which have developed granular soil structure. The bulldozed piles of soil continue to weather and dry, while a thin layer of later placed material has dried on the slag. On the northern portion of the site, the sunflower patch is over a foot high. On the rest of the field planted grass and alfalfa continues to grow along with thousands of cottonwood seedlings that blew onto the site. The Loop is visible in the background.

researcher standing next to rye plantings measuring soil depth researcher showing the height of the soil pile
grass growing over mud from the river researcher standing in plantings patchy plant growth over cracked mud

July 30, 2004. Chicago.

Plants continue to spread on the new topsoil on the south side of the site. In addition to planted grasses and alfalfa, a wide variety of seeds that were in the mud or blew in from the area are well established. The last windrows of soil are drying well. Piled material is beginning to show granular soil structure after several cycles of wetting and drying. On the North side the sunflower plot is well established and planted grass and volunteer cottonwood trees are growing in the desiccation cracks.

piles of mud close up of plants researcher checking plantings
close up of researcher checking plants researcher pointing out tall perennial piles of dried mud
trowel in dried mud looking over the field of plantings grass and other plants growing on dried cracked mud

July 2, 2004. Chicago.

The bulldozer runs through freshly placed mud forming it into windrows. On the south side Piled soil is probed to determine the consistency and drying. Plants are well established on piled soil that has been in place six to eight weeks. On the north side the soil is left to dry without being piled. A classic pattern of desiccation cracks forms over the field as the mud dries. Hand sown alfalfa is becoming established in the cracks. Perennial rye grass and a small plot of sunflower seeds were also sown in other spots.

spreading wet mud on the field John Marlin checking mud John Marlin standing with another researcher in plantings
researcher standing on the last wet spot in the cracked dried mud field measuring soil depth: top 2 inches are dry and the rest is damp plants growing in the cracks between the dried mud to get to the damp soil beneath

June 24, 2004. Chicago.

Soil in this barge is crusted. The Chicago downtown skyline is visible from the slip. The grass on the original demonstration pile is over a foot high and is now growing faster than the geese can eat it. The unloading operation is moved back to the south side of the slip. Previously placed material is bulldozed into piles to make room for more. Hydro seeded grass, alfalfa and volunteer vegetation is growing well on the piled soil at the end of the new 87th street. The material on the north side is drying well and has deep desiccation cracks. It will be seeded but not bulldozed.

wet river sediments in the bottom of a barge wet river sediments on land next to the lake grass growing on a patch of mud with researcher standing next grassy patch
mud field turned over to expose wet sediment under the dried top researcher standing in lumpy mud with grass growing between each other researchers inspecting dried mud field

June 10, 2004. East Peoria.

The work barge approaches the mouth of Spinder Marina aided by added depth due to floodwater. A smaller Cable Arm bucket is tried for the last few weeks. The dredging is completed on June 23.

boats docked at the marina with the dredging barge in the background close up of dredging clam bucket barge with wet river sediments, barge worker in hard hat and life jacket, and dredging clam bucket in the background
clam bucket unloading wet sediment into bardge clam bucket full open assending away from the barge barge workers and researchers assessing the progress of the dredged sediments

June 4, 2004. Chicago.

Grass planted April 22 is well established. Grass that Hydro seeded on May 22 is germinating. Snowshoes allow alfalfa to be planted on soft sediment on the north side of the slip. Drying continues on the south side, which is completely covered. Most of the reclaimed topsoil will be bulldozed into piles so that more can be placed.

grass growing on mounded mud John Marlin spreading seeds on the mud Robert Darmody hosding up block of mud converted to soil to show top two inches were dried and the bottom 8 were damp
John Marlin checking the progress of the mud researcher checking mud showing the vast extent of the field with the mud covered
panarama of mud over the field

May 25, 2004. Chicago.

Heavy rains hit the site for several days recently. Rainwater is evident in a barge and will be pumped onto a field prior to unloading. The crane was moved to the north side of the slip on the 21st and reclaimed topsoil will be stockpiled a the northern end of the site. Mist rises moisture leaves the drying soil on the slag field. A layer of mussel shells from a die off in the 1950s occasionally intact despite being excavated from Peoria Lake and dumped on the slag field. Researcher gets mired in the fresh mud. On the south side grass is growing well on the original pile seeded on April 19. Despite the rain few puddles are visible on the southern site where material was placed the week before.

barge full of wet river sediment crane with clam bucket loading a dump truck with river sediment mud spread over field
mud spread over field
close up of mussel shells from the river two researchers checking wet river sediments after they have been spread on land researcher collecting samples
grass growing over partially dried mud mud just spread over the field

May 20, 2004. E. Peroia.

The work barge is 1250 feet from the Spindler Marina entrance. The combined sediment and water depth is now too shallow for filling a standard barge. Further progress toward the marina will have to wait. A National Public Radio reporter visited the work barge.

boats docked at the marina with a the dredging barge in the background dredging barge on the river clam bucket from the barge splashing into the water to pick up sediments from the river bottom
close up of barge with wet sediment at the bottom national public radio reporter interviewing a barge worker

May 17, 2004. Chicago Press conference.

Lt. Governor Quinn and several Chicago officials hosted a press conference to at the site. Attendees saw the unloading and placement operation as well as reclaimed topsoil in all stages of drying. Dignitaries included Alderman John Pope (10th) and Chicago Park District Superintendent Tim Mitchel.

group on a tour taking pictures 4 people 2 men and 2 women posing for photo groups of people talking
Lt. Gov. Quinn taking to other dignataries people laughing and talking Lt. Gov. Quinn with mud on his fingers
John Marlin posing for picture with dignitaries Lt. Gov. Quinn being interviewed by news security and photographer posing for photo
Lt. Gov. Quinn at press conference

May 17, 2004. Chicago.

Most of the initial site is covered with drying soil, and the operation will move to the other side of the slip to begin placement on the north property. Clods pushed up by the bulldozer three weeks earlier are completely dry and beginning to form granular soil particles. This process is aided by wetting and drying after rains. A garter snake was seen exploring the cracks in the drying soil.

checking soil with gras growing on it researchers checking mud researchers walking over mud field
researcher in the distance with mud piles in the forground dump trucks spreading mud from the river on dry land side angle garter snake running through the mud cracks
bulldozer pushing mud around another view of bulldozer pushing mud around

May 11, 2004. East Peoria.

Barge loading efficiency continues to improve. The heavier Cable Arm bucket drains well and minimizing the amount of free water in the barges.

long shot of the barge holding the wet river sediments clam bucket dumping river sediments into barge close up of clam bucket splashing into the water to collect sediments from the bottom of the river

May 5, 2004. Chicago.

Reclaimed soil is pushed up on the west side of the park site after drying for a week. Much of the site is covered with drying material. Annual grass is growing on the hand seeded test plots on poured piles and bulldozed piles. The grass is mostly rooted in the cracks. Geese are eating the tops of the grass blades.

cracked dried mud with grass growing in the cracks researcher walking mud field river sediments being spread with dump truck
woman posing for photo by mud bulldozer pushing mud around in the distance barges on Lake Michigan
piles of drying mud

Annual rye grass was hand seeded on a pile of freshly poured wet soil at noon on April 19, 2004. Seed was also spread on the pile of soil pushed up by the bulldozer. By April 22, 2004 rain had pockmarked the pile and washed seed into the desiccation cracks. Three more adjacent piles were poured and seeded on the 22nd. Grass seed germinated on the first pile on April 29th, 2004. By May 3, the grass sown on the wet soil pile poured on April 19th was well established. This test plot was not disturbed by trucks or the bulldozer.

close up of mud on the field close up of cracked dried mud researcher taking measurments on mud field
clam bucket on crane transfuring mud to the field close up of grass sprouts on mud cracks overview of grass sprouts on cracked mud

Samples of freshly poured material are collected on the field for determination of physical properties.

researcher taking out components to a testing kit researcher performing soil tests showing muddy soil sample in a small metal container filled to the brim
collecting mud samples dried mud samples in metal containers now occupy about 70 percent of the container volume due to water loss

Returning the soil to the land.

dump truck operator posing for photo next to his dump truck that is about two times the size of an normal dump truck researcher posing for photo on semi dried mud close up of crane operator in cab of the crane using levers to oporate the crane
illinois state police oporating police boat barge operator posing next to open clam bucket which comes up to his chest when fully open crane oporator looking back out of the crane cab and smiling for the camera
two barge workers posing for photo bulldozer operater posing for photo in his cab three men in life vests in a small outboard boat on Lake Michigan
two barge workers checking the progress of transfuring sediments to the field by looking over the side of the barge at the wet river sediments barge operator with hard hat on posing for photo in barge cabin two men in life jackets in a small outboard boat
videogropher taking video of the U.S. Steel location barge and crane operators connecting cables bulldozer operator smiling out of the window smiling at the camera

April 23, 2004. East Peoria.

Barge loading speeds up as a larger Manitowok 4000 crane is brought on line. A Cable Arm low profile, high dewatering bucket is added to the job. This 6 cubic yard bucket weighs 13,000 pounds and is screened to hold sediment while draining water. Three buckets used earlier were too light to efficiently penetrate stiffer sediment below the six foot level.

crane dredging on the illinois river with barge with some river sediments in the bottom crane and barge on illinois river with lots of sediment in the bottom clam bucket about to dump river sediments into barge
clam bucket dumping wet river sediments into barge

April 22, 2004. Chicago.

More barges are at the site. Material in the barges shows desiccation cracks indicative of drying in transit. The initial site south of the slip is nearly covered with the first layer of drying soil.

barge ready for unloading at the US steel location mud in barge has dried cracked surface with stading water in the low spots clam bucket unloading sediments from barge
view from the back of the crane oporators cab with the back of the crane oporator in the forground and the clam bucket in the background picking up sediments out of the barge clam bucket dumping sediments into a big dump truck dump truck spreading mud onto field at US steel location
bulldozer pushing mud around another angle of bulldozer pushing mud around researcher walking over field
far away shot of bulldozer pushing mud around

April 19, 2004. Chicago.

Material that has dried for six days supports weight, although the bottom layer is still wet. Some of the top layer is bulldozed into a pile, leaving the lower wet layer exposed to the air. Trucks ran through the material to make furrows to aid the drying process. It rained twice since the first barge was emptied.

researcher posing for photo after field was bulldozed deep rut in mud researcher posing for photo next to bulldozed mud with the crane in the background
tire tracks in the bulldozed mud view of mud spread over the field

April 14, 2004. Chicago.

First barge load of reclaimed topsoil drying after one day on the field. Four more loaded barges await unloading at the site after being hauled 163 miles upriver by Illinois Marine Towing. Holly Marine Fleeting delivered the barges to the slip.

researcher standing in the in a tire track barges lined up read for unloading
another shot of the barges ready for unloading John Marlin posing next to barges ready to be unloaded

Beemsterboer Slag and Ballast is unloading and placing the wet reclaimed topsoil. A Manitowok 4100, 100-ton crane with elevated cab unloads the soil into Volvo BMA35 mining trucks. A Hawco 10 cubic yard bucket fills the trucks (the bucket is not fully filled to avoid spilling material). A Caterpillar bulldozer arranges the wet soil after placement. The first barge was unloaded in Chicago on April 13.

dump truck spreading mud over the field dump truck with the bed fully extended up and fully empty dump truck empting mud onto the field
front view of the bulldozer spreading mud crane clam bucket transfuring river sediments to a dump truck
back side view of dump truck spreading mud over the field bobcat (a small bulldozer) is in the barge pushing the last of the mud in the bottom of the barge into one spot so that the clam bucket on the crane can lift the mud out of the barge into the dump truck another view of the bobcat pushing the last of the mud into one spot for the crane to lift out of the barge
man in business attire posing for the camera in front of the clam bucket

Contractors ARTCO Fleeting (an ADM subsidiary) and Midwest Foundation collect soil front the bottom of Lower Peoria Lake at East Peoria. They use a crane to excavate soil from the river and place it in barges. The barges are 35x195 feet in size and hold 1500 tons of material. Each barge holds the equivalent of 75 semi-trailers.

clam bucket just about ready to clamp up a bucket full of wet river sediments barge with river sediments traveling down a waterway view of the barge and crane with clam bucket
clam bucket emptying into barge action shot of the clam bucket coming out of the water getting ready to put the river sediments in the barge wet river sediments in the barge

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources' scientific surveys and the University of Illinois' Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences have spent years studying the river and ways to restore it. They are providing technical assistance on such matters as hydrology, sediment deposition, characterization and soil properties.

researchers with a sediment core encased in a round metal sleeve getting ready to expose the core and take samples researchers have the sediment core exposed in a long tube cut in half researchers disucssing data at a table
big block of mud  in the shap of the inside of the clamp researchers checking river sediment to soil conversion test spot long shot of the river sediment core in the lab
researcher with lab coat on posing next to lab bench with slices of sediment core two researchers in the lab taking samples for the sediment core

April 6, 2004. Press Conference. East Peoria.

Illinois Lt. Governor Pat Quinn and U. S. Congressman Ray LaHood held a joint press conference at Spindler Marina in East Peoria, Illinois. Numerous other state and local officials attended the Mud To Parks send off. Quinn chairs the Illinois River Coordinating Council that is spearheading a state-federal effort to restore the river. LaHood is a long time champion of funding for river restoration. The project will dredge soil from Peoria Lake and barge it to Chicago for use as topsoil at a new park being developed at the old US Steel South Works site on Lake Michigan.

crowd gathered for press conference at the beginning of the Illinois River dredging. they are next to the river with life vests on. Dignitary speaking at press conference another shot of the dignitary speaking at the press conference
former director of the Illinois Natural History Survey speaking at press conference dignitary speaking at press conference dignitary from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources speaking at the press conference
Lt. Gov. Quinn speaking at press conference John Marlin speeking at press conference

The 17 acre South Works site as it looked prior to placement of reclaimed topsoil.

view of the brown field at the US steel site on May 15, 2003 view of abandoned US Steel site view of abandoned road with abandoned grassy fields at the US Steel site
panarama view of the brownfield at the US Steel site

Planning redevelopment of the South Works site has been a multi-year process involvmany organizations. People from many agencies inspected the site to develop the placement plan for reclaimed topsoil on the parks. They also visited the Paxton 1 landfill near Lake Calumet where 900 tons of wet soil from Peoria Lake was placed in September of 2002 as a demonstration.

soil sampling on May 15, 2003 dignitaries on a tour May 15, 2003 dignitaries walking on a tour near the deomonstration site
Dignitaries discussing at US Steel site June 20, 2003 arrial photo showing the layout of the US steel site and where the sediments were going to be placed.  for a detailed description, email Beth Meschewski at aerial diagram of how US Steel site will meet up with other lake front parks. for a full description, email Beth Meschewski at
dignitaries touring US Steel site before sediment placement aerial photograph showing brownfield site, lake michigan, and chicago. for a full description, email Beth Meschewski at