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HUD Awards $4 Million Grant For East Chicago Lead Cleanup

City officials want to demolish West Calumet Housing Complex, which is contaminated with high levels of lead and arsenic, this spring. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Photo: Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The city recently moved hundreds of families out of the nearby West Calumet Housing Complex after tests found high lead levels in blood samples of some children.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding East Chicago a $4 million grant to help with lead cleanup efforts. The city is home to a Lead Superfund site, where lead was once salvaged from old car batteries and scrap metal.

Gov. Holcomb issued a joint statement announcing the grant – with Indiana Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, as well as Rep. Pete Visclosky, who represents the area. HUD Secretary Ben Carson met with displaced residents during a visit to the city last month.

The city recently moved hundreds of families out of the nearby West Calumet Housing Complex after tests found high lead levels in blood samples of some children. The Environmental Protection Agency says it is necessary to provide safe drinking water and the goal is to finish replacing lead pipes at 400 homes by May.

The state has tested drinking water in the area to determine the source of the lead contaminated water.

Tests have discovered that water coming out of the treatment plant is clean, but is getting contaminated in the lead service lines and pipes leading into homes, said Mary Hollingsworth, the drinking water branch chief for the state Department of Environmental Management.

“The only real solution here if you want a permanent one is to remove the service lines,” said Miguel Del Toral with the EPA’s groundwater and drinking water branch.

Del Toral said residents should use a filter to remove potential contaminants from water until the lead is removed from the water delivery system.

“You can protect your family quickly with a filter,” Del Toral said.

The state Department of Environmental Management started distributing water filters in April as part of a disaster declaration Gov. Eric Holcomb signed.

Department Commissioner Bruno Pigott said the state is helping the city’s efforts to replace services lines in areas of the Superfund site, but that the transition will be slow.

“We can’t do this overnight,” Pigott said.

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