An East Chicago community dissolves in the fallout from a decades-long lead crisis | Slideshows | Chicago Reader

An East Chicago community dissolves in the fallout from a decades-long lead crisis 

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The sun sets on Chicago, at top right, and BP’s oil tanks in East Chicago, 80 percent of which is zoned for heavy industry. The body of water at top left is a confined disposal facility, which contains toxic chemicals, waste, and sediment produced by nearby industry.
Lamont Anderson embraces his son, eight-year-old Lamont Jr. Lamont Jr.’s blood lead levels tested above the CDC’s cutoff for lead poisoning. After living in the complex for more than a decade, the family moved to Gary, Indiana, last summer.
EPA contractors test soil at a home near the West Calumet Housing Complex. The EPA has classified three zones of concern related to the 322-acre Superfund site, which includes the housing complex and two residential areas to its east.
Friends since childhood, Janae Peyton, 13, Ashanti France, 12, Irene Wooley, 13, and Tniyah Foxx, 12, swing at a park at the former Carrie Gosch Elementary School, which was turned into an EPA office. After elevated lead levels were found in a far corner of the school grounds, administrators moved students to the former West Side Middle School. “All my memories are here,” Peyton says. “I’ve got to move away from my friends.”
In a nearly abandoned building, one West Calumet apartment shows signs of life.
Lamont Jr. plays with his younger brother, 19-month-old Logan.
Lamont Jr. plays with his younger brother, 19-month-old Logan.
A year ago, nearly all of the homes in the West Calumet Housing Complex were full. Today, only a handful of families remain.
Claudette Jackson grew up in West Calumet. She moved her young family to the housing complex in 1983. After a fruitless search for an apartment in northwest Indiana, she’s stopped looking. “Everybody’s trying to move out of here at one time,” she says. “Where are you going to go? There’s nowhere.”
Stephanie King embraces her son, three-year-old Josiah, whose blood lead levels exceeded what the CDC considers dangerous and in need of intervention. King left Chicago’s south side in 2014 to find a safer environment for her five children. “If I’d have known the dirt had lead,” King says, “he wouldn’t have been out there playing in it.”
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The sun sets on Chicago, at top right, and BP’s oil tanks in East Chicago, 80 percent of which is zoned for heavy industry. The body of water at top left is a confined disposal facility, which contains toxic chemicals, waste, and sediment produced by nearby industry.

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