East Chicago residents file lawsuit over contamination

Updated 11/4/2017 7:34 AM

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. -- More than three dozen homeowners have filed a lawsuit alleging that their homes and yards were severely contaminated with lead from a federal Superfund site in northwest Indiana.

The federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday against five companies the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has held responsible for contamination in East Chicago. The lawsuit alleges the companies acted in a "willful and wanton manner and in reckless indifference" while operating in the area for decades.

The residents allege that the companies failed to notify them of the contaminants.

Residents say the contamination left them with falling property values that's made it difficult for them to sell their homes. Only six homes in the area sold in 2017, compared to 21 homes in 2016 and 17 in 2015. Indiana law requires homeowners to disclose hazardous conditions on a property in order to sell a home.

It's also caused emotional distress, the lawsuit said.

"Worse, (residents) constantly worry about the health and safety of themselves and their families," the lawsuit said. "They are left to wonder whether the high incidents of respiratory issues, kidney disorders, cancer, asthma and learning disabilities that occur frequently in their community were caused by lead and arsenic poisoning or other contaminants endemic to the Superfund site."

The EPA listed the area as a hazardous Superfund site that needed to be cleaned up in 2009. The cleanup process is ongoing as the EPA works to secure funding.

The listed defendants are Atlantic Richfield Co., Tesoro Corp., E.I. DuPont De Nemours and Co., The Chemours Co., U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery.

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