East Chicago in northwest Indiana is in a state of panic over serious lead contamination found in the West Calumet Housing Complex and around the Carrie Gosch Elementary School. This is after the authorities informed the residents that their homes have to be destroyed and that the school will not be holding classes this school year.
During the summer, signs were placed around the community to warn residents not to allow children to play in the contaminated dirt. The signs were a warning of the high levels of lead and arsenic found there.
The soil has been contaminated for decades. From 1906-1985 U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery, Inc. was among some of the facilities that processed lead which created the toxins that have now settled in the soil.
The plant closed in 1985, but despite the known hazards, the area was still slated for the public housing and private residences. Also, it seems that the EPA did not prioritize this area for cleanup until 2009.
It was not until 2012 that the EPA had a plan on how to remediate the contaminated soil. Moreover, it was not until May of this year that the EPA provided results from soil samples to the city of East Chicago. During the same time, the EPA planned to remove the soil this summer.
In the short term, residents of the community were told that they must relocate during the summer and that some of the residences would be demolished to clean up the area. This caused immediate problems for the city; because, the mostly low-income residents cannot find affordable housing within such a short time period.
In the long term, there are many dangers of lead contamination. Lead poisoning has been shown to cause many harmful mental and physical problems in children and adults. How many of the residents have these problems now and will have them in the future?
Click on this link to read more about East Chicago's lead poisoning worries.