Calumet Lead Crisis FAQs | East Chicago Toxic Soil | ClassAction

On May 16, 2019 East Chicago’s Mayor announced that the city would begin cleanup of residential and commercial property contaminated with lead/lead paint. The announcement came after months of pressure from residents who have been unable to sell their homes due to toxic soil levels being too high. We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about Calumet Lead Crisis Class Actions
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The “west calumet housing complex” is a housing complex in East Chicago, Indiana that was built on toxic soil. Residents of the complex have been fighting for their rights and many class-action lawsuits have been filed against the city.

Calumet Lead Crisis FAQs | East Chicago Toxic Soil | ClassAction

1. How has the Calumet lead problem impacted East Chicago neighborhoods? What is the size of the polluted area?

The pollution location is located in East Chicago’s Calumet neighborhood. We haven’t been made aware of any environmental hazards if you reside outside of that neighborhood—for example, in Whiting.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency has classified 39 additional regions in Indiana as “Superfund” sites because they have been contaminated by hazardous waste (EPA). A list of these locales may be found here.

2. What should I do if I’m a Calumet resident?

You must move by November 30, 2016 if you reside in the West Calumet Housing Complex. Zone 1 of the EPA’s cleanup initiatives includes the complex and Carrie Gosch Elementary School.

If you reside somewhere in Calumet, the EPA is now analyzing the soil to determine the best course of action. “EPA has begun to distribute soil test findings to homeowners in zone 3, the eastern section of the neighborhood,” according to the Times of Northwest Indiana. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will start cleaning up the most polluted homes this autumn, with work likely to continue next spring.”

You should also get free blood tests from the East Chicago Health Department or Carrie Gosch to assess your and your children’s lead levels. Anything over 5 micrograms per deciliter (5 g/dL), according to Jennifer O’Malley, director of public relations for the Indiana State Department of Health, is deemed high.

Calumet Toxic Soil Infographic

(Sources for the infographic are mentioned at the bottom of the page.)

3. Who is the most at risk for lead poisoning?

“”Because of the way the brain develops, children under the age of six and pregnant women are the most susceptible groups,” Ms. O’Malley told the Public News Service. “Because the brain begins to develop in the womb, we’re especially worried about young children and pregnant women.””

4. How can I limit my children’s lead exposure?

For reducing the danger of lead poisoning, Dr. Richard Troast, PhD, founder of Troast Environmental Consulting, provides the following advice:

The harmful effects may be reduced if the exposure time is reduced. This may be addressed by eliminating all sources of lead from the home. Lead paint can be removed, lead dust can be eliminated by thorough cleaning, and lead in soil may be reduced by using ground cover to keep dirt and lead out of the house. Parents may now live in lead-free homes. Homes constructed following the prohibition on lead-based paints [in 1978] are generally safer than those built before. When in doubt, commercially licensed professionals may conduct a house inspection.

Furthermore, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recommends:

  • Allowing youngsters to play in dirt or mulch is not a good idea.
  • Toys for youngsters should be washed on a regular basis.
  • After playing outdoors, youngsters should wash their hands.
  • Before entering a house, take off your shoes.
  • Do not disturb mulch or dig/garden in yards at Superfund sites like West Calumet Housing Complex.


5. What can I do if a member of my family has a high level of lead in their blood?

For information on how to limit current and future lead exposure, see Question #4.

“A reading of 5 mcg/dL or greater suggests your kid may have harmful levels of lead in their blood and should have their blood tested on a regular basis,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Your youngster should be treated if levels are too high—generally 45 mcg/dL or more.”

Lead levels of 45 g/dL or greater may need intravenous therapy with ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA).

ClassAction will continue to examine this problem and will keep you updated as new information becomes available. Please share your experience with the Calumet soil disaster in the comments area below this article if you have been directly touched.

Sources for the infographic/recommended reading:

“Timeline: History of the USS Lead Superfund Site in E.C.” -Northwest Indiana Times
“East Chicago residents escaping lead exposure find limited home possibilities,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
“East Chicago Residents Search for Answers About Their Health,” according to NPR.
“EPA will begin cleaning in East Chicago,” according to the Northwest Indiana Times.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the environmental concern at the West Calumet Complex in East Chicago?

A: Part of the environmental concern at the West Calumet Complex (WCC) is being a Superfund site. The WCC has been contaminated by lead and petroleum, which have caused serious health effects on humans. As this compound covers an area roughly equivalent to 2 million square feet, its important that you take proper safety precautions while visiting it in order to avoid exposure.

What is a toxic level of lead in soil?

A: A toxic level of lead in soil is a measurement that allows the government to regulate and control how much lead can be found on site.

When was Calumet housing complex built?

A: The Calumet Housing Complex was built in 1928.

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