West Calumet Housing Complex

Crews begin tearing down a portion of the West Calumet Housing Complex on April 2. They drench the debris to prevent the spread of lead and arsenic contamination to the surrounding neighborhood. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)
Lauren Chapman

Demolition began Monday afternoon on East Chicago’s West Calumet Housing Complex, but the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site still leaves former residents concerned for their future.

An excavator slowly tore down a duplex at the corner of Magnolia Lave and Aster Avenue as water canons sprayed onto and surrounding the building to prevent any contamination.

IPB file photo - Annie Ropeik

Today:  Indiana Public Broadcastng's Annie Ropeik reports on a new state credit program called "Moving Forward," that will be able to help the city of East Chicago and other local agencies assist residents who've been affected by the lead contamination -- by giving them a chance to live in contamination-free housing.

We talk with childhood cancer survivor Ryan Darby and Zafar Brooks, the executive director of the non-profit Hynundai Hope on Wheel Foundation, which is giving two grants to Chicago-area childrens' hospitals.  This is national Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is giving East Chicago nearly $4.1 million to tear down a contaminated former public housing site.

The money must be used within a year – though HUD hasn’t officially approved the city’s controversial demolition plan for the West Calumet Housing Complex.

HUD classified the demolition as public housing emergency work as it issued the new grant money. The federal agency says it’s needed to prevent danger to human health “because of limited capital funding currently available to the housing authority.”

Blood, Lead & Soil: A Year In East Chicago

Jul 26, 2017

One year ago, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland told residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex they had to move out because of lead and arsenic contamination.

The announcement sparked a year of frantic action from residents, public officials, activists, and lawyers that’s still ongoing.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is moving forward with a plan to demolish East Chicago’s lead-contaminated West Calumet Housing Complex.

Residents had many questions and received few answers at a tense public meeting about the environmental review of the plan Monday night.

The city of East Chicago finished relocating more than 1,000 housing complex residents this spring. Officials plan to demolish the complex’s buildings later this year.

HUD must first sign off.

Federal housing officials will hold a public hearing Monday night on plans to tear down a lead-contaminated public housing complex in East Chicago. The demolition plan got federal environmental approval last month, but residents want a chance to raise concerns.

Residents from the West Calumet Housing Complex area wrote to the Department of Housing and Urban Development this month. They asked for a public hearing and more time to comment on the demolition plan.

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill Thursday providing aid for a lead contaminated neighborhood in East Chicago, Indiana.

House Bill 1344 expands lead testing in the soil and water of the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago. At the bill signing in East Chicago, Holcomb says nothing could be more important than getting the city back on track.

“From the street to your Statehouse to the White House, we are going to make sure East Chicago stays on track,” says Holcomb.

Keesha Daniels just moved from one lead contaminated neighborhood to another.

Both her new house and her old West Calumet Housing Complex apartment sit within East Chicago’s USS Lead Superfund site. The city is tearing down her old home because of extremely high levels of lead in the soil. So she had to move.

Daniels is still unpacking. Most rooms have a pile of boxes stacked tidily in a corner. Two heavy dressers sit in one otherwise empty room — her sons are coming later to move them. As Daniels takes me on a tour of her new house, she offers me some water.

Another day, another water drive in East Chicago. The crisis is moving people from all over Northwest Indiana to come to the aid of residents in the Calumet neighborhood of East Chicago. Lakeshore Public Radio's Steven Lattimore has the story.
 

Steven Lattimore / Lakeshore Public Media

Residents from across the Midwest say they are banding together to fight for environmental justice.  They held an Anti-Trump march in downtown Chicago, on Tuesday, April 11th, to fight a proposed plan to defund the Environmental Protection Agency.  As Steven Lattimore reports, East Chicago advocacy groups were there to make their voices heard as they deal with the lead contamination crisis that has impacted residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex.

The Environmental Protection Agency and East Chicago’s mayor remain at a standstill over the future of a lead-contaminated public housing complex.

After Mayor Anthony Copeland doubled down on his insistence that the EPA clean West Calumet Housing Complex to a residential standard, the EPA has maintained it can’t move forward with cleanup until it gets more information from the city.

In East Chicago the deadline for residents to move out of the lead contaminated West Calumet Housing Project is fast approaching. As Lakeshore Public Radio's Steven Lattimore reports, some residents are still wondering where they are going to live and feel they are running out of options.

Remaining residents of a lead-contaminated public housing complex in East Chicago are gearing up for a fight about the city’s plans to relocate them.

Sixty-seven families still lived in West Calumet Housing Complex as of Wednesday. It’s less than a quarter of the original residents in the neighborhood, which sits in a federal Superfund site and is slated for demolition, pending federal approval.

In East Chicago, Indiana, federal officials have approved a plan to allow involuntary relocation of families who remain in lead-contaminated public housing beginning on April 1.

These would be considered “emergency transfers” to units that have been inspected for lead in East Chicago and, in Illinois, Cook County and Chicago. Families would stay in these units while they kept looking for permanent housing, still using the same rent vouchers and other HUD-provided counseling and resources.

Gov. Eric Holcomb is declaring a disaster in a lead-contaminated neighborhood of East Chicago, Indiana. The order, announced Thursday, fulfills a request that former Gov. Mike Pence denied before he left office.

In the declaration, Holcomb says he’ll ask for federal assistance to relocate residents still living in the affected area. And those families say they need all the assistance they can get.

The 30-day emergency declaration spans the city’s 322-acre Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site, which includes the Calumet neighborhood and around 3,000 residents.