Residents Express Frustrations As EPA Updates On Cleanup

Nov 18, 2018

Environmental Protection Agency representatives spoke with East Chicago residents about tentative cleanup plans for the former public housing complex in the Superfund site.

But many residents attended to tell the EPA about their ongoing frustrations with delays and poor communication.

Residents questioned the EPA representatives about ongoing health hazards, groundwater contamination, and testing consistency across East Chicago’s Superfund site. George Smolka says he submitted pages of questions and concerns for 18 months, with no response.

“Nobody has ever gotten back to me. 18 months! Am I a little upset? Yes, I’m obviously a little upset,” Smolka says.

While the EPA took public testimony on all concerns, it announced new plans for one-third of the Superfund – Zone 1. The site is split into three zones. Zone 1 is the former site of a public housing complex which was demolished this year and an estimated 1,100 people were relocated. 

The EPA decided on a residential standard – which will remove an additional foot of lead-contaminated soil.

Project manager Tom Alcamo says the city is currently on board with this plan.

“That could change in the future,” Alcamo says. “There’s certainly – in our understanding, though EPA has no role in that – that there are redevelopers interested in that piece of property.”

A public comment meeting on the remediation plan is set for Nov. 29 at Robert A. Pastrick Library at 6 p.m. Comments on the plan can also be sent to Janet Pope at pope.janet@epa.gov.

Alcamo says the legal negotiation for Zone 1’s remediation could take more than a year – he says he doesn’t expect that cleanup to start next construction season.

The EPA also provided updates on the other zones in the Superfund. In the other two-thirds of the Superfund, nearly 300 yards were remediated – they expect to finish the outside remediation next year. EPA representatives told residents lead remediation in homes would continue through the winter.