EPA chief tours toxic East Chicago site

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Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, and East Chicago's mayor for closed-door meetings in an industrial corridor of in roughly 25 miles from downtown Chicago. During a pilot study, the federal agency also found elevated levels of lead in drinking water at some homes. More than one thousand people were forced to evacuate, according to Debbie Chizewer at Northwestern Law School, who has worked very closely with the affected residents.

Pruitt toured the West Calumet Housing Complex, a public housing complex, alongside Gov. Eric Holcomb who approved a disaster declaration for the city just weeks after taking office.

Kaplan's comments came at the end of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's visit to East Chicago to discuss the ongoing clean up efforts at the U.S.S. Lead Superfund site.

The community is what's a called a legacy contamination site.

Brooks also cited concerns about rumors the administration also might be considering eliminating two of EPA's regional offices, including the Region 5 office that now is overseeing cleanup efforts in East Chicago.

The White House budget proposal submitted to Congress last month includes a 31 percent cut in spending for the EPA, including a similar reduction of the agency's Hazardous Substance Superfund Account by $330 million to $762 million. The program is meant to support poor, often minority communities with severe environmental challenges.

Some environmental advocates are calling Wednesday's visit a first major test of Pruitt's leadership. In attendance were residents, NAACP national President Cornell Williams Brooks and community members. Raja Krishnamoorthi and Jan Schakowsky, held a news conference to demand that Pruitt meet with office employees.

There could be a plan in the works to strip Chicago of the regional EPA office.

Clean-up would continue in East Chicago, lawmakers said. O'Grady said buyouts and early retirements won't achieve that goal, because the math makes it unrealistic. Environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, want government officials to look at water quality citywide.

Making things worse, when the EPA tested residents' tap water [PDF] past year, 40 percent of the homes showed high levels of lead due to a separate problem of insufficient use of corrosion control in water pipes. This year, IN will distribute filters to all residents IN Zones 2 and 3.

Last week EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced he would seek to rewrite Obama-era rules limiting water pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The president of the union that represents Environmental Protection Agency employees is making a pre-emptive strike against the agency after a report surfaced that the EPA plans to shutter a regional office in Chicago.

The EPA administrator reportedly toured the lead-contaminated areas of the city by auto and then attended a meeting later in the day with state and local officials at the city's Carrie Gosch Elementary School.

Pruitt went on: "Since I was sworn in as administrator, funding has been secured for drinking water infrastructure upgrades in East Chicago, filters and bottled water have been provided to residents and cleanup of contaminated soil has resumed".

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