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Pence Administration Denied East Chicago Emergency Declaration

A sign from the Environmental Protection agency warns residents not to play in the soil.

Before leaving office, former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence denied an emergency declaration request from the city of East Chicago, Indiana. But East Chicago State Rep. Earl Harris, Jr. is hopeful new Gov. Eric Holcomb will still consider one.

The Calumet neighborhood of East Chicago has lead and arsenic contamination in its soil at 200 times the legal limit.

Harris says the request isn’t something the city asked for lightly.

“I didn’t know if there was a lack of understanding or what the situation was but really we need, needed, and still need more help,” Harris says.

The denial from the Pence administration came last December, though residents only learned of it Jan. 13.

The Pence administration wrote that an emergency declaration was unnecessary because the situation “will continue to be addressed.” The state has provided staffing resources and $200,000 for housing and public health assistance.

Harris says there is still hope.

“The way I look at this and the way I think about this is, you know, that was our previous governor, we have a new governor—in Governor Holcomb—and we’re looking forward to working with him to help resolve this issue,” Harris says.

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