Goldberg Kohn Files Brief on Behalf of East Chicago's Calumet Residents
A brief filed by Goldberg Kohn and the Northwestern and University of Chicago Environmental Law Clinics, on behalf of of residents living in the USS Lead Superfund site says the Environmental Protection Agency failed to adequately represent the residents' interests in an ongoing environmental cleanup and the law allows them to have a say in court.
Attorneys filed the brief in response to the federal government's opposition to the residents' request to intervene in a 2014 consent decree. That decree secured $26 million for a cleanup in two of the three residential cleanup zones in East Chicago's Calumet neighborhood. Residents took issue with zone 2 being left out of the consent decree, the methods the EPA used to test soil, and the many years it's taken for the cleanup to begin.
The EPA knew as early as 1985 of contamination in the neighborhood, yet residents didn't become fully aware of the health risks until last summer when the city told residents at the West Calumet Housing Complex they should move.
Residents contend the EPA's recent work is proof the agency has not acted in their best interests over the past three decades. They aren't seeking to interfere with cleanup efforts, but, rather, want to participate in the cleanup process moving forward, the brief said.
Residents also contended the EPA hasn't fully addressed recent health threats posed by the discovery of elevated lead levels in drinking water. Elevated lead and arsenic levels have also been found in the basements and interiors of some homes.
The lead in the water is unrelated to lead in the soil; it is instead the product of "the presence of lead in plumbing materials, and insufficient orthophosphate levels in the drinking water system," according to a letter from EPA Region 5 Acting Administrator, Robert Kaplan.
"According to its own handbook, EPA should have discovered and considered these other sources of contamination when developing a remediation plan in the first place," the brief said. "EPA is not acting with urgency with regard to these newly discovered harms, even though they acknowledge that these levels of lead and arsenic are unsafe."
Goldberg Kohn attorneys, David Chizewer and Emily Gilman, along with attorneys from Northwestern University School of Law’s Environmental Law Clinic and University of Chicago Law School’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic are representing Calumet residents pro bono.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Atlantic Richfield and DuPont did not oppose residents' motion to intervene.
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