East Chicago Lead Contamination Crisis

A bill to aid toxic cleanup efforts in the city of East Chicago, Indiana, passed unanimously out of a House committee on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

Rep. Earl Harris, Jr. (D-East Chicago), who authored the bill, says the city will need long term assistance to combat its lead contamination crisis.

“There’s a lot of support that’s come on the national level, on the state level, and I want to make sure that this continues,” Harris says. “This is not a short term problem.”

The work to clean up the homes around the West Calumet Housing Complex continues in East Chicago. The EPA says there are things you can do protect your families from the high lead  levels. Steven Lattimore has the story 

 

East Chicago, Indiana, officials are worried about the future of lead contamination clean up in the city because of actions taken by the Trump Administration Tuesday.

The uncertainty comes after the administration temporarily suspended grants and contracts overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

City officials from East Chicago, Indiana, requested state aid from the General Assembly on Thursday to combat their lead contamination crisis.

Mayor Anthony Copeland says multiple state and federal agencies have denied additional requests for more money to cleanup the city’s Calumet neighborhood.

“This has been the only ray of hope that we see that we could come in contact with other additional funding to help alleviate a crisis,” Copeland says.

Before leaving office, former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence denied an emergency declaration request from the city of East Chicago, Indiana. But East Chicago State Rep. Earl Harris, Jr. is hopeful new Gov. Eric Holcomb will still consider one.

The Calumet neighborhood of East Chicago has lead and arsenic contamination in its soil at 200 times the legal limit.

Harris says the request isn’t something the city asked for lightly.

“I didn’t know if there was a lack of understanding or what the situation was but really we need, needed, and still need more help,” Harris says.

The United Fresh Start Foundation will be donating the equipment to provide salad bar to the East Chicago School system. Experts say fruits and vegetables can help with the absorption of lead into the body. Steven Lattimore has the story

  

Lawmakers Propose Aid For East Chicago Lead Crisis

Jan 13, 2017

 

Northwest Indiana legislators have introduced four pieces of legislation to provide state aid for the lead contamination crisis in East Chicago, Indiana.

Rep. Earl Harris, Jr. says his bill’s first priority is resident safety.

“So it really works on how we help out the area in terms of excavation, removing contaminated soil, restoration, and also relocating residents in the area,” Harris says.

East Chicago Lawsuit

Jan 12, 2017

Seven residents of the lead and arsenic–polluted East Chicago, Indiana neighborhood want to join the Environmental Protection Agency’s lawsuit against the companies paying for the cleanup. The residents argue neither party represents their interests, and they want more say. David Chizewer is one of their attorneys—he says its an uncommon tactic, but an important step.

“So that they can have a voice in any changes that need to be made to the clean up process, because, as it’s gone forward so far, it’s been inadequate.”

 

East Chicago’s lead crisis came up Thursday at Ben Carson’s confirmation hearing to lead the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Carson, the retired neurosurgeon from Detroit tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead HUD, was answering a question from U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).

Donnelly asked if Carson would continue HUD’s response to lead contamination in an East Chicago public housing complex.

 

Residents of a lead contaminated neighborhood in East Chicago, Indiana want a larger role in the clean up process and they’re taking an unusual step to get it.

Seven residents of the lead and arsenic–polluted neighborhood want to join the Environmental Protection Agency’s lawsuit against the companies paying for the cleanup. The residents argue neither party represents their interests, and they want more say. An attorney representing the residents, David Chizewer, says its an uncommon tactic but an important step.

Indiana University Northwest

Community activist and Indiana University Northwest labor studies Professor Emeritus Ruth Needleman was in the “Regionally Speaking” studio to talk about her interest in her community and its people.

East Chicago is one of three Lake County cities receiving an extra $5.6 million from the state to tear down abandoned houses – but the city won’t be able to use the funds to demolish a lead-contaminated public housing complex.

The money comes from the state’s Blight Elimination Program, which distributed millions in 2014 to help towns acquire and demolish vacant homes.

 

The City of East Chicago, Indiana, told residents the high lead levels recently measured in drinking water in the Calumet neighborhood are likely the result of the efforts to clean up lead in the soil in the same area.

East Chicago utilities director Greg Crowley told residents at a public meeting that is all the information he can release right now.

“They provided us some preliminary results, um, they wanted to validate their results, so we do not have final data,” Crowley says.

 

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland says a state of emergency should be declared in his city’s lead contaminated Calumet neighborhood.

Copeland met with a group of residents from the lead contaminated neighborhood Dec. 9 and announced he sent letters to Gov. Mike Pence and Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb requesting the emergency declaration.

The neighborhood is a federally designated toxic clean-up site. Its soil is polluted with lead and arsenic left by former factories.

The Environmental Protection Agency has found unsafe levels of lead in the drinking water of some homes in East Chicago, Indiana.

The city is already grappling with high levels of lead and arsenic found in the soil around homes inside its EPA toxic waste clean-up site, or Superfund.

That contamination came from a former smelting plant in the area. But an EPA spokesman says it’s “not possible for lead from contaminated soil to get into your tap water.”

 

Residents living next to a lead contaminated neighborhood in East Chicago, Indiana are now testing positive for lead. The results come after the city expanded blood testing services this summer.

So far, 21 residents of a housing complex outside the lead contaminated clean-up site have been tested for lead. Some have elevated blood lead levels. City officials couldn’t say how many.

A group of Indiana lawmakers called this month to speed up emergency funding for the demolition of a lead-contaminated public housing complex in East Chicago, Indiana.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, a Democrat who’s represented Northwest Indiana’s first district since 1985, says the town’s economy needs this assistance to recover.

East Chicago residents have asked a federal judge to let them be part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s lead and arsenic clean-up agreement with chemical companies.

Residents and their lawyers filed a motion in federal court last week to intervene in the EPA’s consent decree with Dupont and Atlantic Richfield.

That decree is basically a settlement, signed in 2014, saying Dupont and Atlantic Richfield will pay for the EPA to clean up the affected area.

 

Energy and environment issues are not playing a big role in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.

At first glance, Democratic candidate John Gregg and Republican candidate Eric Holcomb have similar views on those issues. Both would pursue an “all of the above” energy strategy—the state should use natural gas, renewable energy, and coal.

Residents in East Chicago, Indiana, will get more time, help and money to move out of a lead-contaminated public housing complex.

The federal government announced Friday it has settled a discrimination complaint with the Chicago-based Shriver National Center on Poverty Law about the relocation.

The East Chicago Housing Authority is requesting $8 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

It says it needs more assistance leveling a housing complex on soil contaminated with lead and arsenic hundreds of times higher than federal safety standards.

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland announced the city’s intention to demolish the complex last June. More than 1,000 residents are eligible for HUD relocation vouchers for new housing.

 

East Chicago, Indiana residents are taking steps to open a fifth lawsuit over lead and arsenic contamination. Residents allege city and state officials knew about the pollution as far back as 1972, when the West Calumet Housing Complex was built. 

More than 250 current and former residents, including 187 children, filed notices last week that they intend to sue the city of East Chicago.

 

Clean up begins soon on one of the sections of the lead contaminated West Calumet neighborhood in East Chicago, Indiana.

In this section of the site, the EPA will remove contaminated soil from 13 yards. Crews will dig down about two feet, dispose of the contaminated soil, and replace it with lead-free soil.

Clean up comes after the Environmental Protection Agency found arsenic in the soil and announced lead contamination levels 100 times higher than what’s considered safe.

This is one of three zones in the cleanup site.

Most families in a lead-contaminated public housing complex in East Chicago, Indiana will miss their first deadline to find new homes on Oct. 31.

It means they’ll get extensions through the end of the year, but why has it been so hard to find housing?

On a recent rainy day in East Chicago, landlord Clay Brooks drills open a plywood front door on one of a row of vacant houses and ducks inside.

“So this is one that we’re rehabbing,” he says. “As you can see, some things that need to get done. This is a three-bedroom.”

The discovery of elevated lead levels in  East Chicago has many residents looking ways to rid themselves or their families of lead contamination. Experts are warning residents about snake oil salesmen who are offering quick fix remedies that don’t work and can cost you money.

Government officials first found high levels of lead and arsenic at an East Chicago lead smelting plant in 1985. Thirty years later, after countless soil samples and elevated blood lead level tests, clean-up has begun. Why did it take so long?

Robert Kaplan oversees the Environmental Protection Agency’s work in the Midwest – he’s the Region 5 Administrator.

“I’m showing you an overhead aerial flight from 1949, and you’ve got the DuPont facility over here, you’ve got some other facilities over here, you’ve got two pre-existing neighborhoods,” Kaplan says.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program was started in 1980, and since its inception, it has added 49 sites in Indiana to its National Priority List.

A Superfund is a site designation by the EPA to receive state and federal money to clean up hazardous waste that poses a threat to public health.

To determine if the threat level is high enough to warrant state and federal assistance, the EPA uses a Hazard Ranking System scored from 0-100. Sites ranking 28.5 and above are eligible for state and federal cleanup assistance.

Community Conversation: West Calumet Lead Crisis

Sep 15, 2016

“Community Conversation: West Calumet Lead Crisis” brought the lead contamination crisis of the West Calumet Housing Complex to the airwaves of Lakeshore Public Radio. The 1-hour conversation explored further, the West Calumet Housing Complex and the issues with lead and arsenic contamination. Discussion followed on the history of the West Calumet Housing Complex, moving issues for residents, as well as the harmful effects of lead poisoning.

Joining host and moderator Tom Maloney were:

East Chicago, Indiana’s school district has received a $3 million state disaster relief loan to make an abandoned middle school suitable for elementary school students.

After dangerous levels of lead and arsenic were found next to Carrie Gosh Elementary School, district officials relocated the school’s 450 students to a former middle school that had been empty for one year.

“It was not in any way shape or form ready for school to be open in that building,” says Paige McNulty, School City of East Chicago Superintendent.

East Chicago School Disaster Relief

Sep 15, 2016

The city of East Chicago, Indiana is still in disaster relief mode after residents recently learned their soil contains poisonous levels of lead. State officials have loaned the school district 3 million dollars to support its response to the crisis.

East Chicago’s Carrie Gosch elementary school sits next to soil that contains staggering levels of lead. That’s a major health threat that can harm children’s brain development.

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