HUD Awards $4M for Demolition of Lead-Surrounded Housing Complex

HUD has awarded the East Chicago Housing Authority (ECHA) in East Chicago, Ind., $4 million for demolition of the West Calumet public housing complex. HUD has also finalized approval of the demolition plan by ECHA of the complex.

The Environmental Protection Agency added the United States Steel Lead site, where the West Calumet housing complex sits, to its National Priorities List in 2009. The site has been divided into three zones with Zone 1 encompassing the entire West Calumet housing complex. The EPA has been monitoring levels of lead and arsenic contamination in the soil there, and performing clean ups at properties while the site was designated a Superfund site.

On May 27, 2016, the EPA reported high levels of lead in the soil in parts of the West Calumet Housing Complex to city officials, and approximately 1,100 residents at the complex were alerted of related health risks. Approximately 700 of the residents at the complex were children. Sampling of the soil at the complex came back at 1,200 parts per million and higher, though EPA's safe residential level of lead in soil is 400 parts per million. Signs were then posted across the complex warning parents to keep their children from playing in the dirt, and HUD expedited Housing Choice Vouchers to the East Chicago Housing Authority in order for them to move all families out of the complex. The last of the families residing at the complex moved out on June 16, 2017, and the complex now sits empty.

Generally, these emergency capital funds can be used for physical work items resulting from an unpreventable or unforeseen emergency that pose an immediate threat to life, health, or safety of residents, or property (including fire safety), and that must be corrected within one year of funding.

As a result of the developments at the West Calumet housing complex, HUD is classifying the demolition there as emergency work, due to the limited capital funding that is currently available to ECHA, and because it is an unpreventable emergency endangering the lives and safety of any children, elderly, and disabled residents at the site. It is vital for the health and safety of the community to quickly demolish the structures on the contaminated soil so the remediation plan can move forward, and to address the lead and arsenic contaminants still there.