East Chicago is receiving $16.5 million in EPA State Revolving Fund (SRF) funding for drinking-water infrastructure upgrades.EPA, the state and the city are working together to coordinate lead service-line replacement with cleanup work to expedite completion of the work and minimize disruptions.EPA provided 54 homes with filters and bottled water while Superfund work was underway at those properties in Zones 2 and 3.
Administrator Scott Pruitt will join IN leaders including Gov. Eric Holcomb IN East Chicago.
An EPA employees union criticized Pruitt for the proposed cuts, saying they would threaten public health.
During his visit, Pruitt provided brief comments at a press conference in East Chicago but quickly exited without answering questions from reporters. "Without the EPA pushing for it, I don't know that we would get anything done", he said of the cleanups.
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"What we talked about today is setting forth concrete steps, progress that we can measure in the near term to restore that confidence", Pruitt said. They cried foul over his decision to skip meeting with them at the Chicago regional office.
She said her organization wants to see the EPA do more to protect the East Chicago community.
Troy Hernandez, a member of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, said the group has worked closely with Region 5's environmental justice program to ensure vital clean ups. I will continue to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in opposition to any cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the closing of this office.
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Michael J. Mikulka, president of Local 704, said the union never received a response to its invitation. While visiting a Pennsylvania coal mine, Pruitt announced the new focus "means returning EPA to its core mission: protecting the environment by engaging with state, local, and tribal partners to create sensible regulations that enhance economic growth".
Prior to Pruitt's visit in East Chicago, about 50 environmental activists held a rally to protest cuts to the EPA and the forced evictions of residents of West Calumet. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, and Mayor Anthony Copeland, a Democrat, accompanied Pruitt, who toured the site and heard from residents.
Last month, the EPA announced it would begin remediation work on almost 200 properties after securing $16 million from the parties responsible for the contamination, which includes high concenrations of lead and arsenic in the soil.
The lead-and-arsenic contaminated 346-unit housing complex was built in the early 1970s on the footprint of a former lead smelter.
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"It's the EPA's objective, and my objective, to make sure the people's health is protected here in East Chicago", Pruitt said. "We stand in the face of anybody who does not support these residents", he said.