EPA plans to dig con­tam­i­nated soil

City has in­ter­est from de­vel­op­ers who want prop­erty

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Craig Lyons Post-Tri­bune

The U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency is fi­nal­iz­ing a plan to clean up con­tam­i­nated land in East Chicago, and city of­fi­cials are eye­ing the site for a new de­vel­op­ment.

The EPA on Wed­nes­day re­leased its plan to clean up leadand ar­senic-con­tam­i­nated soil at the now-va­cant West Calumet Hous­ing Com­plex and Good­man Park in East Chicago, which would mean re­mov­ing two feet of con­tam­i­nated soil and re­plac­ing it with clean fill. As the EPA fi­nal­izes that plan, the city has in­di­cated it has in­ter­est from de­vel­op­ers who want the prop­erty.

The plan would mean dig­ging up more than 160,000 cu­bic yards of con­tam­i­nated soil, ac­cord­ing to the EPA, and cost roughly $26 mil­lion.

“Af­ter ex­ten­sive re­search and full con­sid­er­a­tion of all op­tions, EPA pro­poses ex­ca­vat­ing and re­mov­ing two feet of con­tam­i­nated top soil in zone 1,” EPA Re­gion 5 Ad­min­is­tra­tor Cathy

Stepp said in a state­ment. “We made a prom­ise to the res­i­dents of East Chicago to make this site a pri­or­ity and now we are ready to put shov­els in the ground and clean up the site. Mov­ing for­ward with the cleanup at the U.S.S. Lead site demon­strates the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to ac­cel­er­at­ing cleanups at Su­per­fund sites across the na­tion.”

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland said, in a let­ter to the EPA, that an in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial use for Zone 1 would at­tract em­ploy­ers and new jobs for res­i­dents in the area. Copeland told the EPA one po­ten­tial use is a “high-tech train­ing cam­pus.”

“Two de­vel­op­ers have al­ready ex­pressed in­ter­est in re­de­vel­op­ing Zone 1 and are ready to sub­mit pro­pos­als in­di­cated a mar­ket and need for the pro­posed re­use,” Copeland said in the let­ter. “The city and EPA work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively with de­vel­op­ers and re­spon­si­ble par­ties can help en­sure a sustainable and com­pat­i­ble re­de­vel­op­ment that sup­ports on­go­ing man­age­ment and main­te­nance and avoid the costly out­come of a va­cant un­de­vel­oped site.”

For­mer EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt put the U.S.S. Lead Su­per­fund site, which en­com­passes East Chicago’s Calumet neigh­bor­hood, on a list of 21 sites across the county in need of im­me­di­ate and in­tense at­ten­tion, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease, and later said it could be an ideal prop­erty for re­de­vel­op­ment.

Copeland had asked the EPA to clean the site to res­i­den­tial stan­dards be­fore de­ter­min­ing the fu­ture use of the prop­erty, but has in­di­cated that a com­mer­cial or in­dus­trial use is pos­si­ble.

Af­ter learn­ing of the high lev­els of lead and ar­senic in the soil at the West Calumet Hous­ing Com­plex in early 2016, Copeland told res­i­dents to leave in a July 16 let­ter. That let­ter kicked off a lengthy re­lo­ca­tion process, and the fi­nal res­i­dents left in June 2017.

The EPA’s ini­tial record of de­ci­sion, re­leased in 2012, planned to re­me­di­ate the con­tam­i­nated soil at the hous­ing com­plex with­out dis­plac­ing res­i­dents or tear­ing down any build­ings. The in­ten­tion to sim­ply dig out the soil was the plan funded through the 2014 con­sent de­cree.

The EPA will take com­ments on the pro­posed cleanup plan un­til Jan. 14, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease, and will hold a pub­lic meet­ing on the plan at 6 p.m. Nov. 29 at the East Chicago Pub­lic Li­brary Pas­trick Branch.

CRAIG LYONS/POST-TRI­BUNE

A view look­ing north on Gla­di­ola Av­enue at the site of the West Calumet Hous­ing Com­plex in East Chicago where crews have de­mol­ished the build­ings on the lead- and ar­senic-con­tam­i­nated ground.

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