Environmental Activists March at EPA Chief's Indiana Superfund Site Visit

After meeting with local, state and federal officials - and some residents affected by the contamination - Pruitt made a brief statement and took no questions from reporters.

Administrator Scott Pruitt will join IN leaders including Gov. Eric Holcomb IN East Chicago.

Pruitt notes that as part of the process, the EPA will also provide an opportunity for notice and a public comment period on the issues raised in the industry petitions.

For months, hundreds of families have been evacuated from their homes as the city attempts to demolish affected buildings, after children tested positive for risky levels of lead, some areas even found to be 70 times the federal safety standards.

"I'm pleased with him making this his first visit and our collaboration will continue and we'll get this right and we won't leave until we do", said Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Bolling-Williams, who was invited to Pruitt's meeting, said: "Pruitt listened to all of our concerns but he did not offer any solutions".

The organizers of the rally called for the EPA to enact more thorough cleanup of the sites that tested positive for lead contamination, further testing of the water in East Chicago and lifelong health care by those who were exposed to the contamination in East Chicago.

Prior to his appointment by President Donald Trump to serve as the nation's chief environmental regulator, Pruitt was attorney general of Oklahoma and closely aligned with the state's oil and gas industry. The EPA workers union wants a separate meeting with Pruitt.

The EPA is looking at a proposed 31 percent funding cut in the president's budget. That includes financial help to make sure that happens.

In February, Holcomb declared East Chicago a disaster area due to risky environmental issues emerging from the USS Lead Superfund site.

Rumors have circulated Pruitt plans to cut the nearby Chicago EPA office and move it to Kansas, but a report stated he had no plans to visit the office and could instead attend a Cubs game. "Ultimately, city residents - including but not limited to Superfund site residents - need full replacement of their lead service lines at no or greatly reduced cost to them", she wrote.

Debbie Chizewer, a law fellow at Northwestern University's Environmental Advocacy Clinic, said the East Chicago residents she works with were excited about the high-profile visit, but still anxious that cleanup efforts already underway will not go far enough.

The Environmental Protection Agency will begin reducing its workforce by offering buyouts to the agency's 15,000 employees after the White House issued an order for agencies to cut down their teams, the Washington Post reports.

"We are truly in the fight of our lives", she said.

  • Leroy Wright