EPA ‘pleased,’ but con­cerns per­sist

Some res­i­dents near site wor­ried about lead ex­po­sure

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

U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency of­fi­cials say they are see­ing signs of progress at East Chicago’s U.S.S. Lead Superfund site, but res­i­dents think the fed­eral agency needs to be more thor­ough with its cleanup ac­tiv­i­ties.

EPA of­fi­cials up­dated res­i­dents Satur­day on the progress of cleanup ac­tiv­i­ties at the U.S.S. Lead site, which in­cludes East Chicago’s Calumet neigh­bor­hood. De­spite the EPA’s work, res­i­dents still have ques­tions about other po­ten­tial ex­po­sure to lead or ar­senic in the area.

“I think the EPA is re­ally pleased with the progress we’ve made,” said Tim Fis­cher, a sec­tion chief for EPA Re­gion 5.

Fisher said the EPA has put to­gether a draft plan for Zone 1; ex­ca­vated con­tam­i­nated soil from more prop­er­ties than ex­pected in 2018; and con­tin­ued in­door dust sam­pling and cleanup. He added that ahead of next spring, the EPA will con­tinue in­door dust sam­pling and cleanup, and con­tinue the ground­wa­ter study for a por­tion of the Superfund site.

Res­i­dents Satur­day took is­sue with po­ten­tial ex­po­sure from lead from in­door dust, base­ment seep­age and ex­te­rior lead paint.

The EPA has done in­door sam­pling at res­i­dences where ex­te­rior re­me­di­a­tion work is be­ing done, and that in­cludes test­ing base­ments.

Res­i­dent Devin Crymes said he wanted the wa­ter that seeps into his base­ment tested, know­ing that the soil out­side his home is con­tam­i­nated.

Kather­ine Thomas, an EPA re­me­dial project man­ager, said test­ing base­ment seep­age was done pre­vi­ously, but that study con­tin­ues. Ac­cord­ing to Thomas, much of that work is fo­cused on a por­tion of Zone 3, and val­i­dated sam­ples should be re­turned soon.

Nearly half of the base­ments tested so far have shown high lev­els of lead, Thomas said.

Thomas added that she’d get Crymes in­for­ma­tion to see if they ex­tend the sam­pling and can test his base­ment.

“They keep de­lay­ing me, de­lay­ing me,” Crymes said. “I’m con­cerned about my fam­ily.”

Res­i­dent Lori Lock­lear said the EPA checked part of her home for lead paint when they sam­pled for dust, and was told there was no lead paint. She said she did her own test and found two spots.

Lock­lear added that “it’s just wast­ing time and money” for the EPA to per­form in­com­plete test­ing.

Sarah Rolfes, an EPA re­me­dial project man­ager, said the test­ing is lim­ited for lead paint, and the EPA tells res­i­dents they should get a cer­ti­fied test.

“We’re look­ing for site-re­lated con­tam­i­na­tion,” Rolfes said. “Lead paint is not site-re­lated con­tam­i­na­tion.”

Lock­lear asked about the chip­ping lead paint on her out­side win­dows, say­ing that could re­con­tam­i­nate her yard.

“We only have author­ity in the Superfund pro­gram to ad­dress site-re­lated con­tam­i­na­tion,” Fisher said. “We can’t ad­dress the lead-based paint.”

Deb­bie Chizewer, of Northwestern Univer­sity’s en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cacy clinic, said the EPA does have author­ity to deal with ex­te­rior lead-based paint.

“I don’t think you’ve done that here,” Chizewer said.

The Calumet neigh­bor­hood is an en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice com­mu­nity, Chizewer added,

“They keep de­lay­ing me, de­lay­ing me. I’m con­cerned about my fam­ily.” — Devin Crymes, res­i­dent

and there are many path­ways for lead ex­po­sure. She said state re­sources for lead­paint abate­ment haven’t been ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cated, and only of­fer nar­row op­tions.

“More at­ten­tion needs to be brought to this is­sue,” Chizewer said.

EPA of­fi­cials say that ex­ca­va­tion work to re­move con­tam­i­nated soil could po­ten­tially wrap up next year.

Rolfes said the EPA ex­pected to re­move soil from 140 prop­er­ties in Zone 2, but con­trac­tors com­pleted an ad­di­tional 38.

Con­trac­tors still need to ex­ca­vate con­tam­i­nated soil from 151 prop­er­ties in Zone 2, Rolfes added, and that could be fin­ished next year.

The EPA still needs ac­cess to 50 prop­er­ties in Zone 2, ac­cord­ing to Rolfes, and work to se­cure ac­cess for sam­pling will con­tinue dur­ing the win­ter.

Con­trac­tors re­moved soil from 120 prop­er­ties in Zone 3, Thomas said, and the EPA is still work­ing to gain ac­cess to nine prop­er­ties for sam­pling and po­ten­tial re­me­di­a­tion.

In Oc­to­ber, the EPA filed for ad­min­is­tra­tive war­rants that would al­low them to sam­ple the soil at those nine prop­er­ties in Zone 3, as staff has not been able to get per­mis­sion from own­ers for the tests.

Since 2016, Thomas said con­tam­i­nated soil has been re­moved from 278 prop­er­ties in Zone 3.

KYLE TELECHAN/POST-TRI­BUNE PHO­TOS

East Chicago Zone 2 res­i­dent Devin Crymes asks a ques­tion dur­ing a pub­lic meet­ing about the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site Satur­day at the for­mer Car­rie Gosch Ele­men­tary School.

Tim Fis­cher, an EPA sec­tion chief, an­swers a ques­tion dur­ing the pub­lic meet­ing Satur­day.

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