April 7, 2017

Relocation Drags On At Contaminated East Chicago Housing Complex

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Lauren Chapman/IPB

Lauren Chapman/IPB

Dozens of families are still living in East Chicago’s lead-contaminated West Calumet Housing Complex, a week after the city had wanted everyone moved out.

In late March, the East Chicago Housing Authority assigned remaining West Calumet residents to temporary public housing units elsewhere in the city, as well as in Gary and Chicago.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development says 19 families have filed grievances about those assignments. But HUD officials say those residents won’t get official hearings with housing authority officials until after April 17.

So for now, HUD says 56 families still live in West Calumet. Some are in the process of moving, while others face a choice between temporarily relocating out of town, or staying with family and friends closer to home.

The city wants to demolish and redevelop West Calumet once it’s emptied. But officials have so far declined to clarify those plans for the Environmental Protection Agency, which says it can’t resume clean-up until it knows details.

HUD is expected to approve the demolition plan once all residents move out of the complex. It’s part of a federal Superfund site, contaminated with heavy metals left over from shuttered smelting plants.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson has agreed to visit the site, according to Sen. Joe Donnelly’s (D-Ind.) office, though no date has been set. The EPA says its administrator, Scott Pruitt, will visit East Chicago on April 19.

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