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East Chicago lead bill goes to the governor

State Rep. Earl Harris, Jr. (D-East Chicago) concurred Wednesday afternoon on House Bill 1344, which will give aid to East Chicago to help alleviate the challenges faced by the community due to the lead and arsenic crisis.

Harris explained the change made by the State Senate before the House voted unanimously to send the bill to the governor for consideration.

“The change was minor, but a positive one,” explained Harris. “It has to do with testing the water supply in East Chicago. The revised bill requires the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (INDEM) to conduct testing of East Chicago’s water to ensure it is in line with the national primary drinking water regulations for lead and copper. So, for me, that’s a good thing. It puts us on a national level in terms of making sure our water is safe for people to drink.”

The bill, in its entirety, proposed that IDEM assist the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with sampling, excavation and removal of contaminated soil and restoration work in the West Calumet area. The bill also requires the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help relocate residents.

“This bill is only one piece of the pie,” said Harris. “The Legislature, Gov. (Eric) Holcomb and Lt. Gov. (Suzanne) Crouch all got involved. The governor came to East Chicago, made an emergency declaration and encouraged the heads of EPA and HUD to visit our city. I cannot express my happiness that we were able to help the residents of East Chicago, who did not create the problem, but have been unfortunate victims of it.

“One of the things that pleased me most about this experience was to see how the people of our community stepped up,” reflected Harris. “Church groups, organizations and the general public all got involved with providing support and water. They also helped people move and assisted in any way that was needed. In addition, several of my constituents made the long trip down I-65 to the Statehouse to make the case directly to my House and Senate colleagues. I cannot express enough thanks to them and the vital role they played in passage of this critically important bill.”

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