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East Chicago School Children Take Lead Testing Into Own Hands

Naomi Caseras, an eighth grader at East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy, was one of the students whose samples were tested. Hers came back negative.

Photo: Annie Ropeik (IPB News)

Naomi Caseras, an eighth grader at East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy, was one of the students whose samples were tested. Hers came back negative.

Children at the East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy school learned how to test air, water, and soil samples for lead Tuesday with help from the NAACP.

The school sits right across the street from the USS Lead Superfund site, a federal toxic waste clean-up site contaminated with lead and arsenic.

Principal Veronica Eskew says the lead testing let her students take ownership over how lead poisoning affects them.

“Giving them the opportunity to have a voice, to have a better understanding of what is happening in their environment, was heart-stopping for me,” she says.

Eskew says some of the samples tested Tuesday did come back positive, and the school will continue to help students cope with what that means.

The NAACP also held a training at Joseph L. Block Middle School in East Chicago Tuesday.

Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice program, says it was an “inspiring” day.

“To watch the students come together and decide how they’re going to tell their story and to see the spark in their eyes and to see the commitment and to the see the empowerment that they feel from being able to really have self determination in their communities,” she says.

Patterson says the lead testing training in East Chicago is a pilot program, and wants to take it to Florida, Colorado and Michigan next.

The organization says the testing is necessary because the local, state, and federal response to protecting the community has been inadequate.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement with USS Lead, Mining Remedial Recovery Company, Arava Natural Resources Company and Mueller Industries to begin investigating contamination in the non-residential part of the Superfund. The agency will also start testing the area’s groundwater, something residents have long advocated for.

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