EPA cleaning East Chicago homes affected by lead contamination

Leah Hope Image
Friday, September 2, 2016
EPA cleaning East Chicago homes as families search for new housing
The EPA is now working to clean homes affected by lead and arsenic contamination in East Chicago, Ind.

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (WLS) -- The EPA is now working to clean homes affected by lead and arsenic contamination in East Chicago, Indiana.

Hundreds of families there are being forced to relocate, but many are still living in their homes until they can find alternate housing.

Some residents of the East Chicago community have seen lots of new faces in recent weeks, including some politicians visiting the neighborhood where high levels of lead have been found.

"They are trying to show their face but behind closed doors there's nothing happening. There's nothing to actually help the people," said Karlotte Carey.

Carey is trying get her daughter and grandson out of the West Calumet Housing Complex.

But finding a new place with a public housing voucher is challenging, something U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) acknowledges.

"There is a number of different steps involved is the way it is. It is not well, we have another place located for you, the residents have to find another place in many cases on their own," Donnelly said.

In the meantime, the family is especially concerned about one-year-old Kendal, whose skin is peeling of his fingers.

"He was vomiting just out of nowhere, so I took him to get tested and now we are just waiting," said Angelica McKenzie.

State and local health officials have set up free lead testing clinics at a nearby school.

"They are concerned, they want to know are my levels high? What do I need to do?" said Arnita Fowlkes of the East Chicago Health Department,

Health officials urge those with high lead levels to change their environments and diets with foods the inhibit lead absorption.

"We encourage folks to drink more milk, to eat more oranges, to eat more green vegetables that have high levels of iron in them," said Indiana Health Commissioner Jerome Adams.

The EPA is also offering free house cleaning in Zone 1 until the residents can find permanent housing elsewhere.

The crews clean walls ceilings and floors, all surfaces that may have lead dust tracked into home.

"We are looking to reduce the potential for people's exposure to dust and potential lead inside their home," said EPA Federal On-Scene Coordinator Jim Mitchell.

The EPA has around 100 people working in East Chicago.

The EPA has started free lead testing clinics at Carrie Gosch Elementary School, 455 E 148th St, East Chicago, on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.