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Gov. Holcomb Signs Bill to Continue Effort for East Chicago's Lead-Contaminated Areas

The bill would designate contaminated neighborhoods as “areas of special concern."

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. -- Back in February, Governor Holcomb issued an executive order declaring a 30-day state of disaster emergency for the 322-acre Calumet neighborhood in East Chicago.

The neighborhood was built on the site of a U.S.S. Lead smelting plant, and after decades of industrial activity, it caused lead and arsenic to leech into the soil and, eventually, into the buildings and homes built where the plant once stood. In fact, the lead and arsenic in its soil was 200 times the legal limit. It was listed on the National Priorities List of the worst contaminated sites in the country in 2009.

In September 2016, the EPA announced plans to start cleaning up and decontaminating the polluted area of East Chicago. Local and federal agencies began moving residents out of the neighborhood last year.

Yesterday, Governor Holcomb, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly and U.S. Senator Todd Young joined Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt along with East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland, and East Chicago officials and community leaders at the East Chicago Superfund Site.

Holcomb had this to say regarding his visit to the site:

"The impacts of lead contamination in East Chicago have made clear some of the most pressing systemic challenges these families face. The situation demands an unprecedented level of cooperation among state, local and federal stakeholders. That is pretty easy to articulate, but it’s difficult to achieve."

Holcomb added that at this point, the collaborative efforts with the EPA have been working.

"We’re not going to leave until we get the job done, and then we’ll be here a little longer—because this is about the residents."

Last month, it was announced that the EPA would resume cleanup at the site, and on Thursday, Holcomb signed HEA 1344 which reaffirms and continues the state’s efforts to assist East Chicago families who were negatively affected by lead contamination.

The bill designates contaminated neighborhoods as “areas of special concern” and directs state agencies to continue working with local and federal partners to relocate residents and remove or remediate contaminated soil in the area:

·         Encourages the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to assist the EPA in sampling, excavating and removing contaminated soil

·         Requires the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) to provide assistance to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for resident relocation

·         Requires the state to collect from the EPA reasonable costs incurred by state agencies in providing assistance

·         Requires IDEM to conduct water testing to determine if East Chicago is in compliance with national drinking water standards

(Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)




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