Northwest Indiana legislators have introduced four pieces of legislation to provide state aid for the lead contamination crisis in East Chicago, Indiana.
Rep. Earl Harris, Jr. says his bill’s first priority is resident safety.
“So it really works on how we help out the area in terms of excavation, removing contaminated soil, restoration, and also relocating residents in the area,” Harris says.
Residents of a public housing complex in the Calumet neighborhood are being forced to find new homes. The neighborhood is a federal toxic waste clean up site. The soil there has levels of lead and arsenic more than 200 times higher than the legal limit.
Sen. Lonnie Randolph introduced a bill to aid East Chicago schools. That’s in part to help Carrie Gosch Elementary School, which was relocated last fall because it sits on land connected to the site. Harris introduced companion legislation for that bill in the House.
And Sen. Frank Mrvan introduced a bill to appropriate disaster relief funds for the city. East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland asked former Gov. Mike Pence to declare a state of emergency last December.
Harris is optimistic these measures will get support at the statehouse.
“Considering how much northwest Indiana did financially for the state over years and decades, there’s this situation where we now are coming back and saying, ‘Hey, we need some help,’” Harris says.