House OKs State Rep. Harris, Jr’s legislation addressing East Chicago’s lead and arsenic crisis

February 16, 2017 Earl Harris Jr.

For immediate release:
Feb. 16, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – House members today voted 89-0 to approve House Bill 1344, legislation that will offer aid to East Chicago in response to its lead and arsenic crisis. This bill was authored by State Representative Earl Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago).

“The fact that the House has voted unanimously to approve this legislation is huge for East Chicago and myself,” said Harris. “This lead issue is unfortunately too big for us to handle on our own and will not be resolved quickly. This crisis is something that is ongoing and will involve the help of various agencies on the state and federal levels.”

This legislation proposes the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) assist the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with sampling, excavation, and removal of contaminated soil and restoration work in the Calumet area.

It also requires the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help relocate residents. It pushes the IDEM or the State Department of Health (ISDH) to conduct annual testing for the presence of lead and arsenic in the soil and water in East Chicago.

This testing must be conducted systematically to ensure that all areas in East Chicago of special concern are tested. Testing ranges from $20 to $50, depending on the lab.

House Bill 1344 also requires the state to collect from the EPA the reasonable costs incurred by state agencies in providing the assistance.

“I am very proud that the state stepped up today and is willing to come together and help,” Harris added. “The governor and lieutenant governor will be in East Chicago tomorrow. They will be able to see firsthand how this crisis has affected the area and its residents.

“On a personal note, there is a great moment of pride for me that my first piece of legislation that got passed through the House helps my hometown, Harris added. “I want to thank a lot of people in East Chicago who stepped up to help, came to the Statehouse to show their support, and shared their stories.”

This bill will now move to the Senate for further consideration.