East Chicago Still Struggling Over Lead Contamination Crisis

Sep 9, 2016

East Chicago is grappling with a lead contamination crisis in the city’s Calumet neighborhood. Some local residents were disappointed the issue was not addressed at a meeting of the city’s governing body Thursday.

The US Environmental Protection Agency briefed East Chicago’s Common Council on the lead contamination in a private meeting two weeks ago. Some residents hoped to hear those details this week, in the counsel’s regularly scheduled public meeting, including Darie Gibbs –

“That’s exactly why I came here, because I thought that was going to be one of the subjects brought up. And it was nothing said.”

The EPA measured lead levels in the soil in the residential Calumet neighborhood over 100 times higher than levels allowed by the feds. Lead contamination is a health threat to all residents, especially children, because it’s detrimental to brain development.

Gibbs moved to the neighborhood in the 19-70’s, she lives a few blocks from an area where the highest lead levels have been measured and residents have been directed to move. Gibbs has not been told to move, and she doesn’t want to if she doesn’t have to.

“It’s hard letting go of a place you’ve lived for so long. But my thing is I just want answers. Nobody is coming to me where I can ask questions. That’s all I want. You know? That’s all I ask for.

The former U.S.S. Lead plant polluted the neighborhood’s soil. It closed in 1985. The EPA has known about the contamination since that time and listed the neighborhood for national clean up assistance in 2009.