East Chicago Residents Seek Legal Role In EPA Clean-up Plan

Nov 11, 2016

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.

Now, attorney David Chizewer says residents want a seat at the table to help shape and approve plans that affect their health and property. He says it’s not necessarily standard practice – but the East Chicago situation isn’t standard.

Back in July, residents of West Calumet Housing Complex, located in one part of the EPA’s East Chicago Superfund site, were unexpectedly told they would have to move because of the severity of the contamination, which dates back decades.

Chizewer says it left neighbors elsewhere in the Superfund completely in the dark.

“So that’s when we thought things got dramatic enough that they needed to have a voice in the actual litigation that was controlling the clean-up at this point,” he says.

His motion would apply to any residents whose health or property is affected by the contamination.

“It’ll just make them formally part of the legal process so that they’ll get served with documents that occur in the legal process, they’ll be able to appear in court, and have a voice in decisions being made between EPA and the responsible parties,” Chizewer says.

He expects the EPA and chemical companies will oppose the intervention. They have until mid-December to respond to it.