EPA chief makes first Superfund site visit with Indiana stop

Joseph, said he would strongly oppose the closing of the Environmental Protection Agency's Chicago-based Region 5 Office, responding to a report that the federal government is considering the closure. "And that they can have confidence that their land, their health is going to be secure in the long term", Pruitt said in a brief statement to reporters who waited to hear him speak outside the now-shuttered Carrie Gosch Elementary School building. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford) Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks at a news conference Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in East Chicago, Ind., following a tour of a public-housing complex where roughly 1,000 people were ordered evacuated because of lead contamination. Another 3,000 residents living in Zone 2 and 3 of the superfund site were not told to relocate.

The Trump administration indicated in its budget blueprint that it wants to close two regional offices and consolidate its regulatory activities, setting a deadline of June 15 to identify the offices. Pruitt is the first EPA administrator to visit the site, according to EPA officials.

Reports of the closure alarmed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers from around the region, which relies on the EPA to carry out work state and municipal governments can not handle alone. He then briefly addressed the media but took no questions, saying that the meeting had covered "concrete" steps to be taken to address the city's lead issues in an "efficient and effective way". The Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday that Pruitt, an avid baseball fan, is also planning to attend a Chicago Cubs game. That includes financial help to make sure that happens.

In 2014, "the US EPA paid incentives of about $11.3 million to get 456 employees to voluntarily leave the agency, plus accumulated annual leave payments of $4.9 million, for a total of $16.2 million", O'Grady said.

The EPA will now review and reconsider revisions on effluent limitations made under the Clean Water Act under the Obama administration in 2015, Pruitt said. They chanted and held signs reading, "East Chicago Demands Clean Water". "Whether you believe in modern science and thus believe in climate change or not, the fact is the EPA exists to protect human health and the environment".

The situation is so severe that Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) declared a disaster emergency in February.

Ahead of his visit, environmental advocates said they were hopeful that the administrator's arrival might signal additional support for East Chicago's residents, although they also said they have yet to see any indications of pending action.

  • Carolyn Briggs