NewsPublic Affairs / August 4, 2017

HUD Secretary Carson To Visit East Chicago's Superfund Site Monday

Article origination IPBS-RJC
The West Calumet Housing Complex is fenced off after former residents have been relocated. - Annie Ropeik/IPB

The West Calumet Housing Complex is fenced off after former residents have been relocated.

Annie Ropeik/IPB


U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson will sit down with state lawmakers at East Chicago’s lead-contaminated public housing complex Monday.

The visit comes five months after three Indiana congressmen invited Carson to the USS Lead Superfund site, which is contaminated with high levels of lead and arsenic from old factories.

It spans a residential area and the West Calumet Housing Complex. East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland ordered nearly 1,200 residents to move out of that public housing site a year ago after he learned about severe contamination in the area’s soil.

Many families left town, but others moved within the Superfund site. Now, they and their neighbors worry Copeland’s plan to demolish the old housing complex will spread contaminated dust.

HUD still needs to approve that plan. Officials have said a public housing demolition in a Superfund site would be a first for the agency.

It’s unclear if Carson will address any of that when he visits East Chicago.

A spokeswoman from Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office says Carson will “receive a briefing on efforts to assist local families,” and that Carson and other officials will address reporters after.

Carson was invited to East Chicago in March by U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Merrillville), all of whom will be in attendance Monday.

They also invited Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who came to East Chicago in April. It was the first Superfund visit of his tenure. He’s since said he wants to make the cash-strapped toxic site cleanup program a priority for the agency.

The EPA is waiting on HUD to act before cleaning up soil in the housing complex. It’s already remediating yards in the rest of the Superfund site.

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