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EPA plans $22.6 million cleanup for contaminated East Chicago industrial land

Craig Lyons - (Merrillville) Post-Tribune

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced a $22.6 million plan to clean up former DuPont industrial land in East Chicago.

The EPA said the 440-acre DuPont facility, at 5215 Kennedy Ave., will focus on removing contaminated material from a solid waste landfill, open or filled land and other industrial property at the site and treating ground water.

The EPA said the industrial land and water is contaminated with arsenic, lead, zinc and cadmium.

The EPA is collecting public comments on the proposed plans until Jan. 26, according to a news release, and will hold a public hearing Jan. 10.

“The proposed cleanup at the former DuPont site further demonstrates EPA’s commitment to finding solutions to protect the health and safety of East Chicago residents,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, in a statement.

The EPA’s tentative plans will remove 61,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil; treat groundwater and take steps to prevent it from leaving the site; fence the site and ensure compliance with industrial zoning requirements, and health and safety rules for digging; and receive financial assurances from the site owner, according to a release.

The cleanup is proposed under the authority of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act program.

The proposed work at the DuPont site is separate from the EPA’s work at the nearby U.S.S. Lead Superfund site.

During the fall, the EPA started a groundwater study for the southern portion on Zone 3, which abuts the DuPont facility the federal agency Wednesday announced plans to clean up.

The EPA went door-to-door in the eastern portion of the Calumet neighborhood to talk with residents about basement flooding issues and potential exposure to groundwater in the area.

The push to establish groundwater exposure is part of an EPA evaluation whether additional contamination is reaching residents.

Work to remediate residents’ property throughout the Calumet neighborhood is continuing, according to the EPA, and contractors have removed contaminated soil from more than 200 homes since work started in 2016.

During the 2017 construction season, the EPA remediated yards at 109 homes in Zone 2 of the Superfund site, which runs from McCook Avenue to East Huish Drive, according to the EPA, and 120 in Zone 3, which runs from East Huish Drive to Parrish Avenue.

Alternatives on how to remediate the land at the shuddered West Calumet Housing Complex are being reviewed, according to the EPA, and that work will start when demolition of the buildings and other structures is complete.