Demolition begins at contaminated E. Chicago housing complex

Demolition has begun at a northwest Indiana public housing complex contaminated with arsenic and lead.

The demolition work at East Chicago’s West Calumet Housing Complex will remove all buildings, foundations, streets and sidewalks, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Workers set up air monitors around the USS Lead Superfund site to watch for coarse particulate matter, lead and arsenic, said Jeff Rugg, a senior environmental manager at Amereco Engineering.

Crews focused on one building Monday to ensure engineering controls and monitors are operating properly, said John Blosky, a principal with Amereco Engineering. Workers will begin demolishing at least two buildings a day after confirming that all equipment is working correctly.

“We don’t have any visible emissions right now, which is exactly what our goal is,” Blosky said.

Most of the material from the complex will be disposed and not recycled, with the exception of copper water lines, he said.

Demolition is expected to finish in August.

The Environmental Protection Agency will excavate contaminated soil in the area after demolition. The EPA plans to clean the area to residential standards, though the agency is still updating its feasibility study for the site.
About 300 families were forced from the complex after 2016 tests found high lead levels in blood samples of some children. Soil tests found yards with lead levels significantly above the federal safety standard. Some of the former residents have sued in an effort to have a greater voice in the site cleanup.

The complex was built on a site previously occupied by a lead-products factory. Lead exposure can cause nervous system damage and lowered IQs.

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