A cavalcade of Democratic candidates for state and local office paraded through Northwest Indiana yesterday, but they did stop in East Chicago. Members of Black Lives Matter NWI/Gary and National Nurses United attended a rally at Wolf Lake in Hammond to remind the candidates of the situation in Calumet.
At this past weekend’s CAG meeting East Chicago Undivided and the USGS discovered that the “clean sand” level the EPA is excavating down to isn’t so clean. An astute Calumet resident took a sample while his yard was excavated and an on-the-spot analysis showed 108ppm in the so-called “clean sand.”
An Associated Press report on the West Calumet Complex/HUD settlement is making the rounds today.
Lauren Cross of the NWI Times took to Twitter last night to break down the deal reached between the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the East Chicago Housing Authority and the Shriver Center of Poverty Law, representing past and present residents of the West Calumet Complex. The Post Tribune also reported on this “big relief” for residents. The Shriver Center released this press statement.
A major agreement between the federal government and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law has extended the deadline for West Calumet Complex residents. Residents will now have up until the end of March 2017 to find new housing, with emergency proceedures in place for anyone having difficulties. The East Chicago Housing Authority also agreed to waive any rent owed between 22 July 2016 and 31 March 2017. Evictions, threats of evictions, and late fees are also prohibited. This is a significant victory for residents and organizers, who as of just yesterday were voicing concerns that federal aid money was favoring demolitions and not families in need.
Indiana Public Media reports on the fifth lawsuit to emerge from the Calumet lead crisis. Two hundred and fifty current and former residents claim that city and state officials have known about the contamination since 1972, when the public housing complex opened.
The East Chicago Housing Authority has requested $8 million from HUD to demolish the West Calumet Complex. Residents who have not found housing by the end of this month may be relocated to other public housing properties in East Chicago, a prospect feared by many in Calumet.
Trinity UCC in Gary will offer a prayer service tomorrow evening, in solidarity with those affected by the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Calumet lead crisis.
Indiana 105 FM and the Post Tribune both report that the three federal office holders who represent the Calumet community have written HUD secretary Julián Castro asking the department to move quickly in approving emergency funding for displaced West Calumet Complex residents.
Italian journalist Raffaella Menichini recently visited East Chicago and produced an article for http://www.repubblica.it/. For those who do not read Italian, Calumet Lives Matter (via Google Translate) has supplied an English translation.
Only 33 of 332 West Calumet Complex families have found new homes and HUD housing vouchers have technically expired today. But officials reassure that no one will go without a home, that the dates are “targets” rather than “hard-and-fast” deadlines. The city has set 1 December as the target for complete evacuation of the West Calumet Complex.
Both the NWI Times and the Post Tribune reported on Saturday’s East Chicago Undivided meeting and the commencement of soil excavation in zone 2, the latter event also covered by Indiana Public Media today. The Indiana Daily Student contributes a fine, long piece of student journalism on the difficulties West Calumet Complex residents are facing in their search for new homes.
The EPA is re-evaluating alternatives for cleanup in zone 1, the West Calumet Complex, including an option to remove all soils down to the sands of the beach that existed here a millennia ago. But they state the question of future land use must be established before they can consider all options. And the city says they cannot determine future land use until they have the EPA’s report. According to East Chicago city attorney Carla Morgan, “[o]ur response is, ‘We can’t give you a definite answer when we don’t know what the possibilities are, and we don’t have a real commitment of adequate demolition funds.'”
Indiana Public Media has a short audio feature on the start of cleanup in zone 2.
The NWI Times reports that only a “limited number” of children at the West Calumet Complex have been tested for elevated lead and arsenic levels. According to city data only 263 children under 7 have been tested out of the 670 children living there. Thirty-three have shown elevated blood levels. The Associated Press reports the opening of a second “one stop shop” health site.
Not all zone 2 residents (Calumet) will be waiting until next year to have toxic soils removed from their properties. The EPA announced yesterday it will remediate 13 properties before years’ end, and will recoup the costs later from the companies named in the 2014 consent decree, which excluded zone 2.
Resident’s concerns over water quality are also being addressed. The EPA is testing resident’s basements for traces of lead and arsenic resultant from flooding and seepage. The EPA is also testing drinking water quality during excavation, and residents are to receive water filters while their properties are cleaned.
A representative from the EPA who specializes in community advisory groups will present at a meeting of East Chicago Undivided this Saturday.
Few people seem to comprehend fully the extent of environmental injustice in Northwest Indiana. A powerful report from WBEZ’s Michael Puente correctly frames a fuller scope of environmental injustice in East Chicago and Northwest Indiana. The report also contains a detailed online map of environmental hazards across the old Calumet industrial corridor (51 sites) and makes mention of nearly 1000 hazards in the 5-county Northwest Indiana region.
Byline, a weekly podcast from NWI Times expands on yesterday’s report from education reporter Carmen McCollom asking why knowledge of lead contamination was not communicated over the decades and the impact that is having on East Chicago schools.
East Chicago residents organizing the Community Advocacy Group have decided on the name East Chicago Undivided and are prioritizing the issues concerning all Superfund residents: “health issues; relocation and housing; soil, groundwater and other testing; future property use; and public outreach,” according to the NWI Times. Their next meeting is this Saturday from 2-4pm at the Pastrick branch of the East Chicago Public Library. An EPA representative will present at a meeting on the following Saturday, 1-3pm.
NWI Times education reporter Carmen McCollum updates the situation for the School City of East Chicago, the subject of tomorrow’s Byline podcast. With enrollment down 200 students from last year, and numbers changing every day as more families leave the city, Superintendent McNulty hopes special legislation will allow the district to receive funding at last year’s enrollment level. She also hopes the original Carrie Gosch building will be included in the Superfund site, which will open up funding to demolish the building. State Senator Lonnie Randolph says a bill introduced when session begins in January.
1 Track Media, a film crew from Ithica, New York returned to East Chicago over the weekend, to document the CAG meeting and the EPA’s “one stop shop.” Their previous visit two weeks ago was eventful, they were confronted by East Chicago police for allegedly photographing the BP refinery. According to East Chicago organizer Thomas Frank, the police “demanded their memory cards” and told the young filmmakers “it was illegal to photograph an oil refinery. To the student’s credit, they never gave up their memory cards and we were allowed to leave as long as we didn’t photograph BP.”