Whiting residents concerned about lead levels

WHITING, Ind. -- Concerned residents in Whiting, Ind., packed a public meeting Wednesday evening, to discuss lead levels near the former Federated Metals Plant.

Residents are worried about their health and their children.

The EPA said it will be addressing many of their questions one-on-one, but after what locals have already seen in East Chicago, Ind., there’s quite a bit of skepticism.

Locals came to the meeting with a lot of questions for the federal government about what used to be the Federated Metals Plant.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt made an unannounced visit to the site in mid-April, then authorized $1.7 million for removing lead-contaminated soil at some homes.

“Right now, the site is not designated as a superfund site. We’re targeting properties as priority areas,” Andy Maguire, with the EPA, said.

Many people who were at the meeting don’t live near the site anymore, but wonder about their exposure.

“What’s going on as far as that’s concerned? I know that residents who are living there now have gotten notices and stuff, but what about people who have lived there before?” Elisa Spremo, a former resident, said.

Children are especially at risk from lead exposure, which can cause behavioral problems even at very low levels.

One Hammond city counselor was at the meeting both as an elected official and a concerned citizen. When Bob Markovich was a growing up, he used to play baseball on that very site.

“Right there in that area, right next to that metal fence they got hanging there next to Lake George. A lot of times we’d see different-colored water and be like, ‘Well what is this stuff?’ or ‘What’s going on here?’ And blow it off like it was nothing. now- 50 years later on, you’re finding out that it’s a major issue," he said.

Whiting Metals operates at the federated site now. The state’s allowing it to continue to emit lead through 2027. Residents with children who have not received blood lead testing, yet are being encouraged to get that done.