East Chicago Lead Contamination Crisis

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.

Governor Candidates on East Chicago Lead

Sep 12, 2016

Gubernatorial candidate John Gregg accuses the state government of not doing enough when it comes to East Chicago’s lead contamination crisis.

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 –

School Lead Protocol

Sep 6, 2016

An East Chicago elementary school next to a lead contamination site has relocated to a former middle school across the city. It’s a safety measure school officials say they feel is necessary. Schools don’t currently have a set protocol for handling a lead contamination crisis.

Indiana is a member of the National Association of State Boards of Education. That group says they can no longer look at lead in schools as isolated incidents.

“ThinkProgress.org” health writer Alex Zielenski’s been looking into the East Chicago lead contamination issue and posted an article about three weeks ago about it — as well a new national development just two weeks ago, involving the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and the lead standards it is responsible for monitoring.   Here is the entire conversation, as aired on Tuesday on “Regionally Speaking.” 

East Chicago Residents Scramble For Info After Lead Found In Soil

Sep 2, 2016

Byron Duke Florence was born in East Chicago, Indiana, and although he’s lived in other places, he’s always returned back to the town he considers home. He now owns the house he grew up with and lives there with his mother and other family members.

Standing on the sidewalk outside his house, he waves at every car that drives by and has a friendly conversation with the mail carrier as she walks down the block. It’s his home that he loves, but in the last few months he’s changed his mind.

U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly came to East Chicago on Friday to see for himself the lead contamination issue that’s forcing hundreds of people to move out of their homes in the West Calumet public housing project.

East Chicago Residents Fear The Unknown

Sep 2, 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency is conducting further tests for lead contamination in East Chicago near the West Calumet Housing Complex and Carrie Gosch Elementary school. As Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Nick Janzen reports, many worry the residential neighborhood has been unsafe for decades.

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland has released letters addressing the Environmental Protection Agency over concerns of lead contamination in the West Calumet Housing Complex.

Letter 1

Letter 2

The Indiana State Department of Health is helping provide free testing for residents of East Chicago after high levels of lead were detected in the soil.

The focus spot is a low-income housing complex with more than 1,000 families and about half of them with children.

Residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago are working with federal, state and local officials to find new homes because elevated levels of lead have been found in the ground around their home.

East Chicago: Free Testing for Lead Exposure

Aug 31, 2016

The Indiana State Department of Health is helping provide free testing for residents of East Chicago after high levels of lead were detected in the soil. Indiana’s Public Broadcasting’s Jill Sheridan reports that the focus spot is a low-income housing complex with more than 1,000 families… about half of them children.

E.C. May Not Be Alone In Lead Contamination

Aug 31, 2016

It’s been over a month since residents at the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago were informed about the high levels of lead in the soil surrounding the complex. Despite the West Calumet residents just finding out about the high levels of lead a few weeks ago, this may not be the only location in Northwest Indiana that is lead-contaminated. Lakeshore Public Radio’s Melissa Stephens has more…