East Chicago Lead Contamination Crisis

A new study shows the historical blood lead levels of children in East Chicago’s Superfund site remained higher than those in the rest of the city.

Crews begin tearing down a portion of the West Calumet Housing Complex on April 2. They drench the debris to prevent the spread of lead and arsenic contamination to the surrounding neighborhood. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)
Lauren Chapman

Demolition began Monday afternoon on East Chicago’s West Calumet Housing Complex, but the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site still leaves former residents concerned for their future.

An excavator slowly tore down a duplex at the corner of Magnolia Lave and Aster Avenue as water canons sprayed onto and surrounding the building to prevent any contamination.

(FILE PHOTO: Annie Ropeik/IPB News)
(FILE PHOTO: Annie Ropeik/IPB News)

Federal Judge Philip Simon has denied East Chicago residents’ request to intervene in court proceedings concerning lead contamination in the Calumet neighborhood, formerly home to a public housing complex and an elementary school.

Simon’s ruling agrees with a prior magistrate judge’s opinion saying the request was made too late in the process.

Federal Judge Philip Simon has denied East Chicago residents’ request to intervene in court proceedings concerning lead contamination in the Calumet neighborhood, formerly home to a public housing complex and an elementary school.

Simon’s ruling agrees with a prior magistrate judge’s opinion saying the request was made too late in the process.

House Approves Controversial School Management Bill

Feb 1, 2018

House lawmakers are moving forward with a controversial school financial management bill. Lawmakers debated HB 1315 for nearly two hours Thursday before passing it, and some members, including Rep. Earl Harris (D-East Chicago), say they’re concerned the legislation takes too much power away from the locally elected school boards of struggling schools.

“I’m very much uncomfortable with us taking away the will of the voters in terms of the school board. The school board is voted in,” Harris says.

The cleanup for part of an East Chicago, Indiana toxic waste site will cost nearly four times more than originally expected. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the site’s cleanup, will open an opportunity for public comments Monday, Dec. 18.

The EPA initially estimated cleanup for the residential area of the USS Lead Superfund site would cost $23 million. But, a new agency report says the estimate should be closer to $85 million.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will accelerate cleanup of 21 toxic waste sites across the country, including a lead- and arsenic-contaminated site in East Chicago, Indiana.

The EPA wants to expedite soil cleanup and finalize a plan for what to do with a now-abandoned public housing complex after it’s demolished at the USS Lead site in the northwest Indiana city.

Attorney David Chizewer says it’s not immediately clear if that’s helpful.

More than 30 East Chicago homeowners last week sued several companies the federal government holds responsible for toxic industrial contamination.

Those companies include DuPont, Atlantic Richfield, British Petroleum, U.S.S. Lead and Mueller Industries.

The lawsuit alleges those companies caused property loss to residents who live in a lead-contaminated Superfund site and that, “[f]or decades, Defendants’ lead smelting, lead refining, and other manufacturing processes wreaked environmental havoc in the Calumet neighborhood of East Chicago.”

Children at the East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy school learned how to test air, water, and soil samples for lead Tuesday with help from the NAACP.

The school sits right across the street from the USS Lead Superfund site, a federal toxic waste clean-up site contaminated with lead and arsenic.

Principal Veronica Eskew says the lead testing let her students take ownership over how lead poisoning affects them.

The NAACP will teach East Chicago, Indiana residents how to use lead testing kits this week. The training comes as residents continue to cope with lead contaminated soil and water.

The Calumet neighborhood in East Chicago is part of a federal toxic waste cleanup site contaminated with lead and arsenic. The neighborhood is also having a problem with lead leaching out of drinking water service lines.

Fewer than half of Indiana’s public school districts are participating in a free lead testing program, according to Jim McGoff, environmental programs director at the Indiana Finance Authority.

The IFA created the voluntary program after lead contamination in places such as Flint, Michigan, and East Chicago, Indiana, rose to national prominence.

Jim McGoff told a legislative study committee he has confidence the water supply itself is lead-free because of tests water utilities are required to perform.

The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development gave the East Chicago Housing Authority $4 million Thursday to tear down a lead contaminated public housing complex.

The West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Indiana is the most contaminated section of a federal toxic waste cleanup site. Last spring, the city forced about a thousand residents to move out of the complex, a process that took nearly a year.

Lake County and East Chicago could have new affordable housing by 2020 as part of a state tax credit program called Moving Forward.

It’s how officials plan to fulfill their promise to help East Chicago residents displaced by lead contamination.

Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority executive director Jake Sipe says Moving Forward tries to rethink affordable housing as about more than just a number of units.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is giving East Chicago nearly $4.1 million to tear down a contaminated former public housing site.

The money must be used within a year – though HUD hasn’t officially approved the city’s controversial demolition plan for the West Calumet Housing Complex.

HUD classified the demolition as public housing emergency work as it issued the new grant money. The federal agency says it’s needed to prevent danger to human health “because of limited capital funding currently available to the housing authority.”

Three top federal officials visited Indiana in August: Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

The trips were tightly scripted and large parts were closed to the public.

While federal officials have visited Indiana in the past, there has been an uptick in visits since President Donald Trump took office.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says officials will work to help displaced families from a lead-contaminated public housing complex in East Chicago.

Carson met privately Monday with some residents and local lawmakers near the now-empty West Calumet Housing Complex. Gov. Eric Holcomb, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, and East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland joined the discussion.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson will sit down with state lawmakers at East Chicago’s lead-contaminated public housing complex Monday.

The visit comes five months after three Indiana congressmen invited Carson to the USS Lead Superfund site, which is contaminated with high levels of lead and arsenic from old factories.

Indiana stands to lose out if Congress approves proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, says environmentalists, scientists, EPA staffers, and Indiana residents.

The cuts could affect drinking water infrastructure, burden the state’s environmental regulatory agency, and hinder efforts to clean up industrial toxic waste sites.

Blood, Lead & Soil: A Year In East Chicago

Jul 26, 2017

One year ago, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland told residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex they had to move out because of lead and arsenic contamination.

The announcement sparked a year of frantic action from residents, public officials, activists, and lawyers that’s still ongoing.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is moving forward with a plan to demolish East Chicago’s lead-contaminated West Calumet Housing Complex.

Residents had many questions and received few answers at a tense public meeting about the environmental review of the plan Monday night.

The city of East Chicago finished relocating more than 1,000 housing complex residents this spring. Officials plan to demolish the complex’s buildings later this year.

HUD must first sign off.

Federal housing officials will hold a public hearing Monday night on plans to tear down a lead-contaminated public housing complex in East Chicago. The demolition plan got federal environmental approval last month, but residents want a chance to raise concerns.

Residents from the West Calumet Housing Complex area wrote to the Department of Housing and Urban Development this month. They asked for a public hearing and more time to comment on the demolition plan.

The federal government continues to oppose intervention by a group of East Chicago, Indiana, residents, who are asking a U.S. District Court to give them a larger role in the clean up of their lead and arsenic contaminated neighborhood.

The East Chicago residents were first turned down in May by Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry.

He ruled, “This case was closed over two years ago. To allow [the residents] to intervene now…would be highly prejudicial to the parties, who have already negotiated, settled, and obtained judgement in this case.”

Indiana To Begin Testing For Lead In Public School Water

May 30, 2017

State officials plan to investigate the drinking water of over 700 Indiana public schools for lead contamination this summer. Officials will travel the state to collect samples from drinking fountains, kitchen sinks and other fixtures that provide drinking water across school campuses.

Water testing will be led by the environmental arm of the Indiana Finance Authority, which oversees state funds from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill Thursday providing aid for a lead contaminated neighborhood in East Chicago, Indiana.

House Bill 1344 expands lead testing in the soil and water of the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago. At the bill signing in East Chicago, Holcomb says nothing could be more important than getting the city back on track.

“From the street to your Statehouse to the White House, we are going to make sure East Chicago stays on track,” says Holcomb.

McCormick: ‘Concern’ 2 SBOE Seats Still Vacant

May 18, 2017

As two seats sit vacant on Indiana’s education policy-creating body, the state’s highest-ranking education official is concerned.

As Gary Community Schools prepares for a state-hired emergency manager to take control, the seat on the state education board that represents the district remains vacant.

The same goes for East Chicago Schools as it faces a lead contamination crisis in the community.

As places such as East Chicago, Indiana, grapple with lead contamination, they face a challenge for after cleanup: how to redevelop and revitalize once-toxic neighborhoods.

In Evansville, community leaders have used decades of remediation to their advantage.

In what was once the most-contaminated part of the city’s Jacobsville Neighborhood Superfund site, a vacant lot sits waiting.

“So as we’re standing here right now, we’re standing where Garfield Commons will be,” says Chris Metz, assistant director of Evansville’s ECHO Housing Corporation.

Keesha Daniels just moved from one lead contaminated neighborhood to another.

Both her new house and her old West Calumet Housing Complex apartment sit within East Chicago’s USS Lead Superfund site. The city is tearing down her old home because of extremely high levels of lead in the soil. So she had to move.

Daniels is still unpacking. Most rooms have a pile of boxes stacked tidily in a corner. Two heavy dressers sit in one otherwise empty room — her sons are coming later to move them. As Daniels takes me on a tour of her new house, she offers me some water.

Eight Of Ten School Referenda Pass Tuesday

May 3, 2017

Eight of ten school referenda passed Tuesday – an effort for districts to ask voters through a ballot referenda process to raise property taxes to help fund their schools. Basically, the ballot question asks voters to pay more in property taxes so the schools have more funding.

This weekend 200,000 people converged on Washington DC to make a statement about the   environment, jobs and justice. There were roughly 50 Northwest Indiana residents who were there to advocate for keeping Environmental Protection Agency funding intact among other things.  Steven Lattimore was there...

 

Thousands turned out this weekend for the People's Climate Rally in Washington D.C. Among them were a bus-load of residents from East Chicago. Residents there are very concerned about the climate and the environment because they are dealing  with the effects of lead poisoning in the air, ground and water. Steven Lattimore has the story.

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