Residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Indiana, were completely devastated by the news that their housing units would be demolished after it was revealed that the topsoil in the area was contaminated with lead.
In July, residents of the complex were told that the building was the site of lead contamination and that children should avoid playing with the soil, the Associated Press reported.
The EPA posted signs in late July, warning that the topsoil in West Calumet as well as in the soil east to Parrish Avenue, north to Chicago Avenue and south of 151st Street, the Chicago Tribune reported on July 29.
The warnings stated that the lead was most likely from the industrial operations at U.S.S. Lead, a copper and lead melting and processing plant, which began operations in the early 1900s. According to the EPA, the plant was closed in 1985. The U.S.S. Lead building was located right across the street from the housing development on 151st. Street.
State Sen. Lonnie Randolph started receiving calls from tenant about the EPA signs.
“Somebody dropped the ball somewhere,” Randolph told ABC News. “Maybe it was intentional, or maybe by mistake. Maybe it was negligence.”
Since then, EPA contractors spread a rubber mulch as a temporary covering so tenants can avoid contact with the soil.
Days after Mayor Anthony Copeland wrote letter asking residents to relocate temporarily, the city sent a follow up letter stating that it planned on demolishing the complex and that the low-income housing residents find new housing as soon as possible.
More than 1,000 residents are reeling from the news. A hard move-out date has not yet been given.
Residents were told they would be issued “tenant protection vouchers,” that should help them pay rent at new locations.
The news of the lead contamination in the soil follows only months after the crisis in Flint, Michigan. Where the city’s drinking water became contaminated with lead and other toxins, adversely affecting over 98,000 residents.