- advertisement -
Posted under: Race & Identity News

Toxic soil in one black community is forcing more than 1,100 residents out of their homes

An eerie scene reminiscent of the Flint crisis is currently playing itself out in East Chicago, Indiana. With their soil being 6 times higher than safe lead levels, residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex are currently being tested for lead poisoning. The complex was built next to old factories that left dangerous levels of lead in the soil. The roughly 1,110 residents, including 670 children, are all at risk of having lead poisoning. Some of those tested already have alarmingly high levels of lead in their blood. From children to adults, this community is currently living in their own version of a nightmare. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sought superfund status for the site in 2008. "Superfund status" is for any land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and/or the environment. These sites are placed on the National Priorities List (NPL). The EPA found hot spots in the complex soil in 2008 and removed some. They tested the soil again and removed more from hot spots in 2011. In depth testing to determine what soil needed to be removed started later in 2014. The EPA has suggested that they just remove the soil without disturbing the residents since 2012, but it's too late for that. After telling children that they could no longer play in the soil or spend much time on it, the Mayor made an executive decision. In a letter to residents Mayor Anthony Copeland stated: "Now that we know the levels of lead in the ground in the West Calumet Housing Complex, we feel it is in your best interest to temporarily relocate your household to safer conditions. Even though this may be a great inconvenience to you, it’s necessary to protect you and your children from possible harm." HUD has allocated $1.9 million to pay for new rentals for the residents and the state has allocated $100,000 for moving expenses. Not all of the vouchers provided for moving are recognized and provide an extra burden for residents. As families try to gain access to this money and figure out how to uproot their entire lives, mothers try to keep their children safe inside their homes. Some play with their babies on couches, afraid that even touching the ground in their apartment would result in damage to their children. If you are looking for Governor Mike Pence to visit the site of this "humanitarian crisis," please check his schedule as he campaigns as Vice President with Donald Trump. He was available for cameras and press in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but residents are asking why he hasn't found time for them. He promised through email to send staff out to East Chicago.

Stay connected by signing up for Blavity's newsletter.

- advertisement -