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Public hearing at West Calumet Housing Complex

An EPA sign warning residents not to play in the dirt or around the mulch is seen in summer 2016 at the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago. 

Jonathan Miano, file, The Times

EAST CHICAGO — EPA plans to make an announcement about the DuPont cleanup site during its meeting Saturday at the old Carrie Gosch Elementary School.

Residents of the USS Lead Superfund site have been pushing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to give a presentation about groundwater.

DuPont's East Chicago facility manufactured lead arsenate insecticide from 1910 to 1949, and cleanup at the site is ongoing under the EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act program.

Groundwater flows northeast from the DuPont site through parts of the Superfund site, records show. Superfund residents are concerned the groundwater could be recontaminating their properties.

Maritza Lopez lives in zone 3 of the Superfund site, one of the areas under which groundwater flows from the DuPont site.

Lopez said the lead level in her basement was 920 parts per million, far more than the level in the yard outside her home. The residential cleanup level for lead is 400 ppm.

She's not alone. 

EPA testing has found that many of her neighbors also have higher lead levels in their basements than outside their homes, she said. EPA removed soil from Lopez's yard because of arsenic levels, not lead.

Lopez and others fear groundwater seepage during rainfall and flooding has carried contaminants into their homes.

"It's got me very concerned," she said.

The water table is relatively high in Lopez's neighborhood, and some residents have two sump pumps but still see seepage in their basements, she said. Water from sump pumps often empties back into the soil around homes or alleyways, she said.

Jennifer Dodds, the EPA project manager for the DuPont cleanup site, is scheduled to speak during Saturday's meeting. 

The meeting is set for 10 a.m. to noon at the old Carrie Gosch school, 455 E. 148th St., East Chicago. 

EPA employees also will offer updates on the Superfund cleanup, indoor dust sampling, and the remedial investigation and feasibility study for the industrial property on which the former USS Lead plant once stood.


Public safety reporter

Sarah covers crime, federal courts and breaking news for The Times. She joined the paper in 2004 after graduating from Purdue University Calumet.