East Chicago’s lead crisis came up Thursday at Ben Carson’s confirmation hearing to lead the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Carson, the retired neurosurgeon from Detroit tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead HUD, was answering a question from U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).
Donnelly asked if Carson would continue HUD’s response to lead contamination in an East Chicago public housing complex.
HUD is funding efforts to relocate residents, and lawmakers, including Donnelly, want more federal funds to demolish the complex. It’s inside an Environmental Protection Agency clean-up site, or Superfund.
“Whenever we’re in a Superfund situation, and lives are in danger, and our children are in danger of being poisoned, I believe that becomes an emergency,” Carson said to Donnelly. “We will push very hard to complete that process.”
Donnelly said, “We’re really going to need you as a teammate on this, and all of the children there appreciate it, and the families do as well,” said Donnelly. He also mentioned having discussed East Chicago with Carson privately before the hearing.
HUD paid to build the city’s West Calumet Housing Complex near an old lead smelter in the 1970s. Late last year, city officials asked HUD for permission and $8 million to help tear it down once residents have moved.
Hundreds of them are still looking for new housing.