Toxic Soil Prompts Indiana Residents to Find New Homes

Residents of a low-income housing complex in Indiana are in the midst of an evacuation and relocation due to extremely high lead levels detected in the soil of their community.

In late August, hundreds of families living in the West Calumet Housing Complex of East Chicago were ordered to evacuate their households after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a strong warning about lead levels in mid-2016.

As residents are packing their belongings and preparing to move into hotel rooms while the housing complex is completely demolished, community groups are concerned about what they believe has been miscommunication between the EPA and local officials.

EPA officials assigned to the Great Lakes region have gone on record to explain that lead level warnings for West Calumet date back a decade.

East Chicago is an Indiana community located on the shores of Lake Michigan. This municipality has a tradition of housing industrial workers employed by several firms located in Chicago. West Calumet itself has an industrial background as it used to be the site of a lead processing plant.

In the past, the EPA had proposed a solution that involved removing the polluted soil; however, the local government rejected this federal proposal because it deemed it too risky for residents. Over the years, measurements of lead levels suggest that they more than three times higher than normal.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is coordinating the evacuation and rebuilding of West Calumet, a task that is expected to last a few months before the first wave of families can return.