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Remediation for Beck’s Lake Superfund site is set to begin this summer

The Beck’s Lake Superfund site includes all of South Bend’s LaSalle Park and two neighboring residential lots.
Gemma DiCarlo
The Beck’s Lake Superfund site includes all of South Bend’s LaSalle Park and two neighboring residential lots.

Remediation work is expected to begin soon at the Beck’s Lake Superfund site in South Bend, which includes all of LaSalle Park and two nearby residential lots.

The Environmental Protection Agency partnered with the city of South Bend and Honeywell International to clean up the Beck’s Lake site back in February.

The city acquired the land in 1959 and later developed it into LaSalle Park and the Charles Black Community Center. But the area served as an industrial dumping ground in the 1930s and 40s, leaving behind a legacy of soil contamination.

Contaminated soil samples were first collected from nearby residential lots in 2017 and 2018. But the site was given a clean bill of health by city officials, and an EPA report concluded that "there [was] no immediate risk from exposure to the soils in the sampled areas.”

The agency completed additional sampling in 2019 that included the rest of the park and found lead levels higher than the safe limit of 400 parts per million.

At an update meeting Tuesday, city officials said all areas that exceed that limit will be capped with a foot of additional soil. Any areas that exceed 1,200 parts per million will also be excavated and backfilled.

A map of the planned remediation work at the Beck's Lake Superfund site.
City of South Bend
A map of the planned remediation work at the Beck's Lake Superfund site.

Earlier this month, the board of public works awarded the remediation work to South Bend-based HRP construction at a bid of nearly $2.2 million. According to the city’s presentation, HRP plans to contract 3.5 percent of that bid amount to women-owned businesses, and 1 percent to minority-owned businesses.

Residents at the meeting said they would like to see more of that work awarded to minority contractors. Given the history of the site and its location in a predominantly Black neighborhood, they also raised concerns about how people in the area had been affected by contamination.

“Historically, we were placed here, right? We couldn’t live anywhere else,” one attendee said. “So what are we going to do after the park? How do we clean up the community? How are we going to make sure that our homes are brought up to standard and the lead is remediated from the houses?”

Motria Caudill from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said her agency will conduct a “health consultation” at the site that might answer some of those questions.

“Our agency was created under the Superfund law to provide an objective, third-party review of people’s exposures,” she said. “So we will be looking at any data collected at the site — both in the park and the nearby residences — and we have a standard process to evaluate the data and to look at people’s current and historic exposure.”

After the remediation work is complete, the city’s parks department will consider future uses for the park — including new trails, restrooms, sports facilities and landscaping. Any work on the site will have to be approved by the EPA.

Cleanup is slated to begin in late July or early August and finish in October.

Contact Gemma at or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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Gemma DiCarlo came to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.