EPA plans to dig contaminated soil
City has interest from developers who want property
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.
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.