By Diane Pathieu and Sarah Schulte
High levels of lead were found in neighborhoods in Whiting and Hammond after the EPA tested more than 80 properties that sit next to the now-shuttered Federated Metals, which closed more than 40 years ago, officials said Tuesday.
Next week, the EPA will begin clean-up at five properties with elevated levels of lead. On May 23, a public meeting will be held for Whiting and Hammond residents.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to test hundreds more properties near the old metals facility. EPA officials could not comment on why the agency did not do routine testing after the factory closed.
Sam Borries, of the EPA Region 5, said their biggest concern is for properties “at or above 1200 ppm of contamination” that also has “sensitive population living on property,” which includes children under age 7 or pregnant women.
The discovery of lead contamination in Whiting and Hammond follows the lead crisis in nearby East Chicago where crews are demolishing the West Chicago Housing Complex after hundreds of residents were forced to evacuate.
“I think the state and federal environmental officials have been dropping the ball consistently here, they don’t go looking for these problems, even though they know they exist,” said Mark Templeton, an environmental law professor at the University of Chicago.
As a result, Templeton said the residents are the ones bearing the health burden.
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