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EPA completes 5-year review of USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago

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FILE PHOTO: Tyler Lake/WTIU
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The Environmental Protection Agency said — once the cleanup at the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago is done — the public and the environment will be safe. That’s according to the agency’s recently released 5-year review of the site.

The review lays out the work that’s been done so far. At least two feet of soil was removed at more than 800 properties with high levels of lead and arsenic. Kevin Adler with the EPA’s Superfund division said the agency is deciding whether properties with contamination below those two feet need to have disclosures on their deeds.

“So that people are adequately warned if they did dig into their property below that depth — what precautions could they take? And what would they do with the soil?” he said.

READ MORE: Did May flooding recontaminate homes in East Chicago?

On WJOB radio in October, Keith Selvie, the city of East Chicago's director of project management, said the city plans to build one to three single-family homes on vacant lots in the West Calumet neighborhood. That's concerning to current residents.

"Several existing residents just want to make sure that people who are new to the area understand this history and that they should be, you know, aware of potential challenges," said Mark Templeton, who represents some residents through the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School.

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Members of the East Chicago Calumet Community Advisory Group had previously advocated for the responsible party to clean up contamination down to native sand instead of just two feet. Adler said doing so would have erased the need for deed disclosures, but the EPA kept it to two feet because the risk of coming into contact with soil below that depth is generally low. 

Templeton said current residents are also concerned about the groundwater pollution at the site — which is seeping into some people’s basements and hasn’t been addressed yet. Adler said the EPA plans to finish investigating the groundwater next year. 

Contact reporter Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.