EAST CHICAGO, Ind. — A new joint agreement between federal agencies aims to deal with lead contamination of subsidized housing in the wake of the crisis in East Chicago, Indiana, that has led to the relocation of more than 1,000 people.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency signed the agreement Wednesday, giving the agencies more proactive means to test and clean up contaminated public housing complexes and subsidized multifamily housing on or near Superfund sites.
There also has been remediation across the Calumet neighborhood due to the lead and arsenic contamination, which was discovered in 2016.
According to the signed agreement, HUD and EPA will start identifying HUD-assisted and public housing units near Superfund locations and expedite those that need immediate action. Then HUD will test the soil at the locations to pinpoint any contamination.
Jennifer Fiore, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, said the results from the soil testing will be available within 120 days. She said if contamination is found then HUD and EPA will start remediation work.
“There’s going to be a lot of data sharing and communication,” Fiore said.
Meanwhile, the federal housing agency said it will bring down its threshold of detected blood lead levels for children living in public or subsidized housing.
According to Fiore, the new rule will lower the actionable level to the same level considered actionable by the Center for Disease Control — from 20 micrograms per deciliter to 5 micrograms per deciliter.
Fiore said HUD is committed to providing safe and healthy housing.
During a U.S. Senate hearing on his nomination as HUD secretary, former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said he’d continue to relocate families from the complex if confirmed.
“Whenever we’re in a Superfund situation and lives are in danger and children are in danger of being poisoned, I believe that becomes an emergency, and we will push very hard to complete that project,” he said.