A low-income housing complex with at least 1,000 residents near a former industrial site by East Chicago will need to be displaced due to high lead levels in the soil.
The West Calumet Housing Complex was completed nearly 40 years ago where a lead refinery, copper smelter and secondary lead smelter operated from the early 1900’s to around 1985.
In 2009 the EPA designated the area as a priority cleanup site and had testing done in 2014. The testing showed very high levels of lead in the soil surrounding the housing complex.
After testing was conducted, the EPA developed an excavation plan of the soil. Unfortunately, nothing had happened with the site until May of this year when the agency released the test results to the city.
According to The Times of Northwest Indiana, “the results showed the soil at nearly every property in West Calumet exceeded the EPA’s 1,200 ppm threshold for emergency cleanup. At one property, the lead concentration was found to be more than 91,000 ppm.” Also, they noted that the arsenic levels were around 567 ppm which is much higher than the regulated limit at 26.4 ppm.
In preparation to excavation, the EPA posted warning signs to let residents know not to let their children play in the dirt. Also, they sent out letters to all residents to further explain what is happening and how to prevent exposure.
For a temporary fix, the EPA covered the contaminated soil with a top soil and rubber mulch to help prevent further exposure until actions can be taken.
The city wants to take steps to relocate all residents and knock down the 364 unit complex. With these new developments, the EPA has put a hold on excavation plans for now. On August 19th, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development said they plan to release $1.9 million in funds to the local housing authority to help relocate the housing residents.
After all this came to light, many kids went through testing and were found to have high levels of lead. There were 400 preliminary blood screenings completed and 29 had high levels with 21 of them being children under 6. In addition to the housing complex, at least one elementary school has been shut down over safety concerns. This incident is being compared to Flint, MI and their water crisis.
For full article and credit: http://www.durabilityanddesign.com/
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