What happens when a state does a bad job of redeveloping a Superfund site?

Stephanie King, a single mother of five, has adopted a grim routine over the past month: mopping with bleach twice a day and sweeping even more often to remove any dirt her family might have tracked inside. She has a haunted look, and for good reason.

Ms. King and other residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex in East Chicago, Indiana here learned recently that much of the soil outside their homes contained staggering levels of lead, one of the worst threats to children’s health.

Ms. King’s 3-year-old son, Josiah, has a worrisome amount of lead in his blood, according to test results she received last week.

Like about 1,100 other poor, largely black residents of West Calumet, including 670 children, she is scrambling to find a new home after Mayor Anthony Copeland of East Chicago announced last month that the residents had to move out and that the complex would be demolished.

If I’d have known the dirt had lead, he wouldn’t have been out there playing in it,” said Ms. King, 35. “Oh, my God, I’m ready to go.”

The extent of the contamination came as a shock to residents of the complex, even though it is just north of a huge former U.S.S. Lead smelting plant and on top of a smaller former smelting operation, in an area that was designated a Superfund site in 2009.


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