East Chicago Lead Crisis Needs More State, Federal Help, Mayor Says
The mayor of East Chicago, Indiana said his administration is petitioning state and federal officials for money to help clean up the controversial lead crisis that has displaced more than 1,000 public housing residents.
“We’re trying to petition the state government, the federal government for funds to remedy this problem,” said Mayor Anthony Copeland. “The City of East Chicago’s pockets are not deep enough to even begin to cleanup the zones, to even begin to put a dent in solving any other health issues, and a long term strategy cannot even begin because it has to be funded.”
Copeland said the city faces 347 lawsuits related to the lead crisis.
In late May, Copeland ordered the immediate relocation of 1,200 residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found dangerously high levels of lead in the soil. The public housing complex is located on land previously used for decades by a lead-smelting company.
Copeland said he stands by his decision to move residents, who are considered to be in zone 1 of a 3 zone federally-designated superfund site.
“The bottom line is this: You move them out of harm's way, then you adjust, you tweak this thing and then you go for a long term solution,” Copeland said.
The mayor recently met with dozens of residents and activists to discuss the city’s response. Some homeowners near the public housing complex said they feel like their concerns are not being heard by City Hall.
“We are 100 percent supportive of the needs and attention given to West Calumet public housing residents. At the same time, the needs and interest of the homeowners have not been adequately addressed or even considered,” said homeowner Sara Jimenez, who lives blocks away from the complex.
Michael Puente covers Northwest Indiana for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @MikePuenteNews.