Partial lead line replacements worry East Chicago residents

 
 
Updated 8/10/2018 12:45 PM
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EAST CHICAGO, Ind. -- Residents living in an area deemed a Superfund site in northwest Indiana have expressed concerns after learning that in some cases a contractor is only replacing a portion of homeowners' lead pipes.

East Chicago started a multimillion-dollar project last year to replace lead service lines in hundreds of homes in an area with lead and arsenic contaminated, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported .

Hasse Construction was hired for the first phase of the project and had replaced 269 lead lines in the East Calumet neighborhood as of July 31, said George Kovacich, the project oversight manager. The city has enough funds to service another 115 homes by November.

But the construction company isn't carrying out full replacements in homes with finished basements because the company isn't contracted to tear out walls, Kovacich said. Homeowners can tear out the walls at their own expense to allow for full replacement, he said.

Partial lead service line replacements could potentially create long-term risks for homeowners, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Connecting new lines to old lead lines can cause corrosion and expose homeowners to lead in their drinking water, said Debbie Chizewer, an attorney at Northwestern University's Pritzker Law School Environmental Advocacy Center.

"Partial lead service line replacement is universally condemned as a risk because it increases the amount of lead in the water," Chizewer said.

An East Calumet resident, Maritza Lopez, said officials should have considered families with finished basements when bidding on the project. She said she initially signed a contract that indicated the contractor would replace all of her privately owned lead service lines, but an amended contract released Thursday said that only a portion of lines may be replaced.

"I'm angry and frustrated because that was not disclosed and that was not in the contract that I signed," Lopez said. "The ones being penalized are the ones living in the Superfund site because a lot of us live on a fixed income."

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Information from: The Times, http://www.nwitimes.com

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