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EPA Discovers Unsafe Levels Of Lead In East Chicago Water

The Environmental Protection Agency has found unsafe levels of lead in the drinking water of some homes in East Chicago, Ind.

The city is already grappling with high levels of lead and arsenic found in the soil around homes inside its EPA toxic waste clean-up site, or Superfund.

That contamination came from a former smelting plant in the area. But an EPA spokesman says it's "not possible for lead from contaminated soil to get into your tap water."

Instead, he says the lead in the water likely came from city service lines or plumbing. It was found in 18 homes out of 43 inside the Superfund, tested this fall as part of an EPA pilot program. The spokesman says there are no plans to expand that program, but that the state and city are "taking action to reduce lead levels in the drinking water system."

Still, resident Maritza Lopez is worried. The EPA is already cleaning up soil in her neighborhood. So, regardless of where the lead in the water came from, she says it's hurtful.

"I mean, it's our home, our memories are there, but it's like, you don't feel that warmth anymore," Lopez says. "It's like -- you feel like you've been abused."

In a letter posted on a city website, East Chicago mayor Anthony Copeland criticized the EPA's testing methodology, but says he's asking for residents to receive water filters and for funding to upgrade city infrastructure.

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