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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Environment - The importance of US EPA and IDEM

"East Chicago residents lay out demands ahead of visit by EPA head Scott Pruitt" isd the headline to this lengthy story yesterday in the NWI Times (via IED) reported by Sarah Reese.

A later story, by Sarah Reese and Lauren Cross, is headed "UPDATE: EPA's Pruitt visits East Chicago; agency denies regional office closure." It begins [ILB emphasis added]:

EAST CHICAGO — EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s visit Wednesday to the city’s contaminated Superfund site was marked with rallying cries from protesters denouncing proposed budget cuts under President Donald Trump’s administration and demanding better protections from polluted air, dirt and drinking water.

But Pruitt said he hoped his visit to East Chicago’s USS Lead Superfund site — his first to any Superfund site in the country — would be the first step of many in “restoring confidence” in a community grappling with a legacy of toxic industry.

“Please know that it is the EPA’s objection, my objective as the administrator of the EPA, to come in and make sure people’s health is protected here in East Chicago, and that they can have the confidence that their land, their health is going to be secured for the long term,” Pruitt said during a brief media statement outside of the former Carrie Gosch Elementary School — shuttered last summer amid fears of lead contamination.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is “committed to doing that … in a very efficient and effective way,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt did not offer any details as to how EPA’s federal headquarters would restore such confidence during his 90-second speech, after which he refused to take questions from reporters.
The briefing, held inside the elementary school gates, was closed to the general public, and reporters were required to RSVP ahead of time or show proper identification to enter.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's editorial yesterday:
Thanks to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, the environmental woes of East Chicago residents are getting the heightened attention they deserve.

The site of a former lead-smelting plant was declared a federal Superfund cleanup project in 2009, but last year the government discovered that lead and arsenic poisoning were still imperiling hundreds of nearby residents. Holcomb declared the area an emergency site and earlier this year offered state help in relocating residents.

Thursday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is scheduled to visit, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has accepted an invitation from Donnelly to visit the site, as well.

East Chicago is also dealing with elevated lead levels in its water related to aging lead pipelines.

The northwest Indiana city's problems are vivid reminders of why the state's anti-pollution watchdog, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, needs to be robustly funded and staffed.

Environmentalists have long expressed concern that IDEM's staff and budget are inadequate to its task. According to the Hoosier Environmental Council, staffing levels and appropriations for the agency have shrunk by 17 percent over the past decade.

Now, as the Trump administration prepares to make deep cuts in the EPA's resources and regulatory authority, it's important that IDEM have adequate support.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 20, 2017 10:11 AM
Posted to Environment