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4/19/2017 7:31:00 PM
EDITORIAL: High-level visits offer hope in East Chicago lead crisis

Times of Northwest Indiana

Bribes and kickbacks paid to an East Chicago housing official in the 1970s helped lay the foundation for the lead- and arsenic-infested public housing disaster in East Chicago.

More than 40 years of relative inaction and neglect by many levels of government ensured some of our Region's most financially struggling residents lived in this zone of dire contamination.

While these egregious facts can't be undone, Northwest Indiana can take heart in some high-level officials who are visiting the site today.

Newly anointed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt is slated to join Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb today in a visit to the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago.

Their presence today doesn't rectify decades of government negligence and outright graft surrounding the health and safety crisis that is the West Calumet Housing Complex.

But it's good to witness the continued interest of government officials doing their best to mitigate past wrongs.

Holcomb has been rolling up his figurative sleeves in the affected area since assuming the governor's seat earlier this year.

His executive order declaring the site an emergency disaster zone opened the door for financial assistance to help relocate residents and secure money to demolish the uninhabitable complex.

Word came earlier this month that the matter had the new EPA chief's attention as well.

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., and U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., all deserve credit for putting the East Chicago lead site on Pruitt's radar.

"The federal government needs to get this cleanup right, and visiting will provide Administrator Pruitt with a firsthand perspective of the challenges residents are facing and help him understand the situation," Donnelly said earlier this month.

We couldn't agree more.

Though much work remains, and the lives of more than 1,000 residents have been turned upside down, we all can glean optimism from these high-level visits.

The fires of corruption that forged this crisis — and the years of neglect that fanned the flames — must not be forgotten or be permitted to reignite in any corner of our society.

Related Stories:
• East Chicago residents lay out demands ahead of visit by EPA head Scott Pruitt
• Expert: Chemical change likely contributed to lead in East Chicago water
• 'There is injustice here': East Chicago residents protest emergency transfer
• Indiana approves $2 million grant for West Calumet House Complex demolition
• East Chicago residents say EPA chief Pruitt made no commitments

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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