East Chicago officials say $56M is needed for lead crisis

East Chicago officials estimate the city needs at least $56 million to deal with its ongoing lead contamination crisis.

Mayor Anthony Copeland submitted an inventory on Friday to Gov. Eric Holcomb about the resources needed to address the contamination in the Calumet neighborhood, which is within a Superfund site.

The assessment outlines what funding is needed to support the city under a disaster declaration the governor signed in February.

The city's report prioritizes the need to provide safe water for residents. It asks for nearly $500,000 for water filters and $40 million to begin replacing underground lead water pipelines.

"Governor, I want you to know that while we did not cause the problems in Calumet, we are committed to working with you and others to resolve them," Copeland wrote in his letter. "I realize that this will require collaboration and bipartisan support from all parties."

Copeland said in his letter that his primary concern is the safety and health of residents. Other top priorities include independent water testing throughout the city, funds for additional blood-lead level testing, resources to test water in homes and expansion of infrastructure improvements to replace lead pipes in the Superfund site.

Former governor and current Vice President Mike Pence previously denied the city's request for a disaster declaration.

East Chicago's request for Indiana to provide water filters for residents came at the same time a similar request was made to the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency discovered high levels of lead in the drinking water during work at the Superfund site.

A coalition of advocacy groups wants the EPA to give residents water filters or bottled water to avert potential health risks. EPA officials said the agency is reviewing the request.

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