The West Calumet Housing Complex, which houses primarily low-income families, lies on the site of a former lead smelting company, as member station WBEZ reported.
In July, the Environmental Protection Agency reported high lead levels in the soil in parts of the complex and notified the residents. The EPA advised parents to stop their kids from playing in the dirt, “to wash their children’s toys regularly and to wash children’s hands after they play outside.”
As WBEZ reported, the samples showed lead levels “three times higher than the federal safety standards and in some places even higher, much higher.”
After that, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland “ordered the removal of 1,200 residents from the West Calumet housing project for safety concerns,” according to the member station. The residents have now been informed that the 346-unit complex is set to be demolished.
WBEZ explained the short-term plan going forward:
Those vouchers will allow residents “to relocate to any public housing complex in the U.S.,” as WBEZ reported. That process will take months to complete, and there’s a lot of confusion about how it will work.
Residents told The Northwest Indiana Times that they have received “misleading and confusing information about how much moving assistance is available.” Among the unanswered questions: whether the residents will receive help with costs like “moving transportation and security deposits.” Also unclear: “when the initial security deposits they paid to move to West Calumet will be returned,” according to the newspaper.
Wednesday, Here and Now spoke with community volunteer Juan Fernandez, a former resident of the West Calumet Housing Complex, who is distributing kits full of moving supplies such as boxes and tape to the residents scrambling to relocate. He said he lived there from 1995 to 1999, after his father was laid off. He described it as a …