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Children Living at the West Calumet Housing Are at High Risk for Lead Poisoning

There is a looming health crisis for the past and current residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Indiana.

The newspapers and local media have recently reported that the East Chicago Housing authority intends to demolish 346 housing units at the West Calumet Housing Complex due to toxic levels of lead found in the soil.

This is indeed a housing and health crisis for the 1200 residents, more than half of whom are children.

It has been long known that lead exposure causes long-term neurologic harm, especially in children, and those who have grown up or spent time in West Calumet have been exposed to TOXIC levels of lead for the past 50 years.

Lead has been accumulating in the West Calumet soil as far back as 1906, when the USS Lead Smelting operation began directly across the street from the current housing complex, at 5300 Kennedy Avenue.  And the International Lead Refining Company, DuPont, along with other industrial sites adjacent to West Calumet have been producing and expelling lead and other toxic metals onto the property for several decades.  What’s worse, the West Calumet complex along with the Gosch Elementary School sit on the exact site of the Anaconda Lead Products.

Simply stated, the property occupied by the West Calumet residents and schools are situated in the middle of a toxic lead field created by the pollution of companies that sat inside or surrounded the property.

In November, 2012, the EPA published a document called the USS Lead Record of Decision.  In that document, the EPA stated that, based upon soil sampling conducted in 2007, the soil at the West Calumet Complex “posed an imminent and substantial threat to human health.”  USS Lead Record of Decision,https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/SiteProfiles/index.cfm?fuseaction=second.ars&id=0501433&doc=Y&colid=62604&requestTimeout=480.

By way of historical background, the EPA began investigating the lead levels in the West Calumet soil in 1993.  That investigation was then turned over to the EPA’s Superfund program, which “is responsible for cleaning up some of the nation’s most contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters.”  (www.epa.gov/superfund)

As a result of the findings, in 2009, the EPA listed the West Calumet area on its National Priorities List.  The “EPA identified properties with lead concentrations in surface soils greater than 1,200 mg/kg.  The EPA stated that lead surface soils in concentrations greater than 1,200 mg/kg pose an imminent and substantial threat to human health.”  In the Record of Decision, the “EPA estimated that approximately 57% of the yards in this area contain concentrations of lead and/or arsenic that pose a risk to human health.” USS Lead Record of Decision, November 2012, p. 9.  The acceptable lead concentration in soil set by the EPA is 400mg/kg.

But the EPA stated that, “lead poses a risk to residents at 47 of the 74 residential properties that were tested.”

“The EPA considers East Chicago an environmental justice community.  An environmental justice community is one characterized by low income and burdened with significant environmental challenges.”

The solution selected by the EPA and agreed to by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in 2012 included excavation of the effected soil up to a depth of 24 inches, with disposal of the contaminated soil at an off-site Subtitle D landfill.

However, despite finding that the West Calumet housing complex had soil lead levels that posed an “imminent and substantial health risk” as of 2007, the remediation work has not begun!

          In childrenthere is scientific evidence that links blood lead levels with neurological problems.  Specifically, blood lead levels of less than 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood are associated with increased diag­nosis of attention-related behavioral problems, greater incidence of problem behaviors, and decreased cogni­tive performance as indicated by (1) lower academic achievement, (2) decreased intelligence quotient (IQ), and (3) reductions in specific cognitive measures.  National Toxicology Program, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Svc., NTP Monograph on Health Effects of Low-Level Lead, June 13, 2012, 1.4.1 NTP Conclusions, p. xviii.

The City of East Chicago, the East Chicago Housing Authority and HUD held a public meeting on August 3, 2016 to discuss the anticipated demolition of units at the West Calumet Housing Complex and the efforts being made to relocate residents.

Watch our blog for clips of the meeting and additional comments about the veracity of the statements made at the August 3, 2016 meeting.

IF YOU HAVE A CHILD AND RESIDE WITHIN THE WEST CALUMENT HOUSING COMPLEX, YOUR CHILD HAS BEEN EXPOSED TO TOXIC LEVELS OF LEAD IN THE SOIL.  GET THE BLOOD LEAD LEVELS OF YOUR FAMILY CHECKED BY YOUR PHYSICIAN.  EVEN LOW-LEVEL BLOOD LEVELS HAVE BEEN LINKED TO HEALTH PROBLEMS IN CHILDREN.  CALL US FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.  (219) 212-2462.