{{featured_button_text}}
082116-nws-ecgosch

Carrie Gosch Elementary School students wait for a bus last week at the West Calumet Housing Complex recreation center to take them to their school's new home at the former West Side Middle School in East Chicago.

For most of the summer, we've seen a barrage of information released by federal and local government officials regarding alarming lead levels in the soil of a low-income East Chicago neighborhood.

What we now need to see is concerted effort to hold accountable those who allowed city residents to reside in what already was known as an EPA Superfund site because of the contamination.

We need to know why it seemingly took so long for the EPA to communicate the toxic lead levels to the city and its residents — and why an elementary school was constructed within the Superfund site eight years ago.

A bright side to this dire health fiasco has been the quick response of Mayor Anthony Copeland's administration after learning from the EPA in May about the untenable lead levels in the West Calumet Housing Complex.

Copeland's office showed appropriate urgency and leadership in promptly issuing letters to affected residents that it would be safest for them to relocate.

And the city appears to be diligently working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to secure relocation vouchers for as many as 1,200 residents.

But why did it take so long for this important information to land in the hands of East Chicago leaders and residents?

Testing has been going on at the site — home to a copper smelter, lead refinery and lead smelter between 1906 and 1985 — for years.

In 2009, the area became listed as an EPA Superfund site, a federal designation aimed at cleaning up some of the country's most contaminated sites.

That was about seven years ago.

About eight years ago, the city's school district built Carrie Gosch Elementary School, which serves about 400 students, in what is now one of the affected areas.

The most recent alarm regarding West Calumet contamination arises from EPA testing conducted in 2014.

Could the EPA have provided this emergent information to the city more quickly?

City leaders think so.

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Was it wise to build a school in an area already known for industrial contamination? Even decades ago, was it appropriate to locate a low-income housing complex in a former industrial site where contamination, at least to some degree, was known?

Would luxury housing have been built in such an area?

Who is ultimately responsible for this health debacle, and how can it be prevented in the future?

At some point soon, federal, state and municipal leaders will need to turn from the gathering and reporting of data, and begin assessing the entities accountable.

Residents living in the East Chicago Housing Authority already have enough challenges in their life. They shouldn't have been subjected to such dire health threats to themselves and their children.

We all deserve answers, sooner rather than later.

0
0
0
0
0