East Chicago residents face opposition to intervene in court

Federal officials say court proceedings aren't the proper place for residents of an East Chicago neighborhood that's contaminated with lead and arsenic to voice their concerns.

In its opposition to residents' motion to intervene in the proceedings with the two companies responsible for the contamination, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency argued that the case is closed and that "intervention is neither allowed by the law nor necessary under the facts," the Post-Tribune reported.

Court documents filed by the DOJ also stated the work at the Superfund site is proceeding, that the site will be cleaned and applicants will be heard.

Earlier this year, some residents of public housing were told to move because of high levels of lead and arsenic found at the complex, which is on the former site of a plant that melted lead and copper.

A group of residents had asked a federal court last month to give them a larger voice in future cleanup plans for the neighborhood and make sure government agencies keep them more informed. The residents' motion also said that they were entitled to intervene to ensure a remediation plan protects human health and the environment.

But the federal government's motion argues that residents are looking for a way to "second-guess" the EPA's remediation plan.

In 2014, the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana approved a consent decree between the EPA, Department of Justice, State of Indiana, the Atlantic Richfield Company and E.I. du Pont De Nemours for the cleanup of the U.S Smelter and Lead Refinery site. The agreement only covered two zones of the site.

According to the EPA, the two companies included in the consent decree would cover roughly $26 million in cleanup costs.

There have been concerns that the residents weren't properly or promptly notified of the problems to begin with.

Attorneys for the residents are preparing a response to the DOJ's motion in opposition.

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