East Chicago City Councilman At-Large Emiliano Perez speaks at Saturday's meeting

East Chicago Calumet Coalition gets set for DuPont clean up

Contributed By:The 411 News

Wants to know what the EPA has been doing for the last 20 years

Bracing for another iceberg in East Chicago’s sea of environmental concerns, some city residents and members of the East Chicago Calumet Coalition spent Saturday prepping for the EPA’s upcoming meeting on its plans to clean up the former DuPont Chemicals site.

For nearly 100 years, the site in the city’s southeastern corner has been home to companies that manufactured industrial chemicals and also used the land for storage and disposal of waste products from the manufacturing process. Before DuPont, it was the Grasselli Corporation. Today’s owner is Chemours, a former subsidiary of DuPont.

Hard lessons of community organizing were learned as residents and activists, in 2016-17, tackled the lead and arsenic soil contamination of the USS Lead Superfund site in the city’s Calumet neighborhoods. Now in 2018, ECCC and a second organization, the Community Strategy Group are finalizing their efforts to respond to the EPA on Wednesday, January 10 for the DuPont cleanup.

It’s a formal process where the EPA announces its proposal and then calls for public comment. In November 2017, the EPA announced a $22.6 million cleanup plan and scheduled this week’s meeting for the public to hear the plan. The agency also set a two-month time period, until January 26, for the public to submit written comments.

And it’s similar to the process residents are undergoing with the area’s electric and gas utility, NIPSCO, as it seeks an increase in its natural gas rates. Each side listens, without discussions or determinations.

Heading into Wednesday’s meeting, the ECCC has obtained an extension of the public comment period, said Maritza Lopez, ECCC steering committee member. “Our attorneys need to see more documents before we can comment. The EPA will give us a new date at Wednesday’s meeting.”

Both groups want to know what steps have the U.S. EPA and the State of Indiana taken since 1997, when the DuPont facility was designated as needing corrective action. Investigations by the EPA have shown some migration of chemicals and metals that are hazardous to vegetation, animal and human life into the soil and groundwater at the site.

The facility sits only hundreds of feet from residential areas. According to a November 30 analysis in the NWI Times, “The former DuPont site could be a source of groundwater contamination in the USS Lead Superfund site, where a separate EPA cleanup of contaminated residential yards is underway. As part of the EPA’s involvement in the Superfund site, the agency is investigating basement flooding issues and the potential for groundwater contamination in basements and homes.”

ECCC steering committee member Tara Adams told attendees, “If you don’t know the technical issues, come and speak about your flooded basements. Ask what that contaminated water is doing to your own health and your children’s.”

The public hearing will be held in the Pastrick Branch of the East Chicago Public Library at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Next week is another important date for the community groups. On January 16, oral arguments will begin in federal court on their motion to intervene in the 2014 consent decree that negotiated the settlement for the USS Lead Superfund site.

East Chicago City Councilman At-Large Emiliano Perez speaks at Saturday’s meeting

Story Posted:01/08/2018

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