Mar 06, 2017

East Chicago, Ind., Seeks Emergency Response to Lead Contamination

Groups petition EPA for federal resources

east chicago, indiana, drinking water, lead, contamination, safe

In response to the drinking water crisis in East Chicago, Ind., a coalition of local citizens, environmental law clinics, and state and national groups petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action to secure safe, clean water for the city’s residents.

In 2016, the City of East Chicago discovered problems with lead contamination in the city’s drinking water. Resources will be needed to address the system-wide drinking water contamination, as well as the soil remediation issues stemming from the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site in East Chicago.

In September 2016, a Reuters investigation found elevated blood lead levels in children living in the vicinity of the Superfund site and, more broadly, in East Chicago. That fall, EPA conducted a drinking water pilot study at the Superfund site, concluding that the data showed a “system-wide” problem in the drinking water for this city with a population of 29,000. Inadequate corrosion control chemicals and the existence of lead service lines resulted in elevated levels of lead in drinking water. On Dec. 1, 2016, before the EPA study findings were released to the public, the City of East Chicago sought a declaration of emergency from then-Governor Mike Pence. Pence’s office rejected the City’s request.

The City of East Chicago and State of Indiana have begun implementing long-term measures to address the water contamination—including action from new Governor Eric Holcomb—but ​these efforts have not yet secured a safe source of drinking water for residents. Among a series of requests to protect the health of residents, the petition urges EPA to immediately order the City and State to provide East Chicagoans with an alternative, free source of safe drinking water, such as water filters or bottled water.

“Nobody should be forced to endure contaminated drinking water, a basic need of every American. But the damage is even more acute here, as East Chicagoans have shouldered the weight of legacy contamination in the soil and air for decades from polluting facilities around their city. EPA must act to protect the community’s health until effective long-term fixes are in place,” said Anjali Waikar, staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The petition is available at https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/petition-for-emergency-action-under-the-safe-drinking-water-act-20170302.pdf.

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