Former Gov. Mike Pence denied the request for emergency status before he left office.
Officials say it's possible up to 90 percent of homes in East Chicago have lead water lines.
Carson was answering a question from U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) at the confirmation hearing to lead the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
A group of residents asked a federal court to give them a larger voice in future cleanup plans and to compel government agencies to keep them more informed.
East Chicago is one of three Lake County cities receiving an extra $5.6 million from the state to tear down abandoned houses.
City officials told residents there were high lead levels recently measured in drinking water in the Calumet neighborhood.
Mayor Anthony Copeland told residents he sent letters to Gov. Mike Pence and Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb requesting the emergency declaration.
Residents impacted would receive documents and become part of the decision-making process about the cleanup going forward.
A complaint has been settled by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to give current and former East Chicago residents more time, money to relocate.
More than 1,000 residents are eligible for HUD relocation vouchers for new housing.