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20 April 2017, 07:19 | Erica Roy
Some of the same demands were included in a letter the CAG recently sent to Pruitt, asking EPA to commit to engaging more residents in its decision-making process; expedite a groundwater study at the Superfund site it recently began earlier than planned; adjust its remediation plans as needed following the release of a forthcoming public health assessment; grant a Safe Drinking Water Petition asking EPA to use its emergency powers to respond to its own discovery of elevated lead levels in the city's drinking water; ensure residents' health is adequately protected during soil cleanup and their properties are fully restored; and do more to address environmental injustices faced by East Chicago residents and other low-income communities of color around the U.S.
Pruitt toured the West Calumet Housing Complex, a public housing complex, alongside Gov. Eric Holcomb who approved a disaster declaration for the city just weeks after taking office.
That work continues as reports suggest work will stop at the Chicago EPA offices that is overseeing the East Chicago project and water quality of Lake Michigan. The office would be consolidated with operations in Kansas, the paper reported.
Residents and the Natural Resources Defense Council are calling for more support and testing.
Pruitt visited the complex and the adjacent residential neighborhood that make up what's known as the USS Lead Superfund site.
You've signed up to receive emails. Last week, Scott Pruitt announced a #Back2Basics campaign that proposes returning the EPA to its supposed roots: protecting the environment, spurring job growth, and not burdening industry with rules and regulations. They cried foul over his decision to skip meeting with them at the Chicago regional office. Rumors of the office's closure prompted the union and elected officials to hold a press conference Wednesday, speaking out against any cuts. The White House has proposed a cut to funding for the Superfund program, but Pruitt told the U.S. Conference of Mayors in March that he believes it's vital.
The Sierra Club said Wednesday that employees at the EPA Region 5 headquarters in Chicago were "stood up by Pruitt, in spite of their invitation for their own boss to have lunch with them".
Michael J. Mikulka, president of Local 704, said the union never received a response to its invitation. "There's a hope that actually seeing the problems, meeting the people, seeing their stories and hearing their demands and concerns would turn even the coldest of hearts", Geertsma said.
"Instead of looking backwards to review well-reasoned rules based on clear science, the administration should be moving forward", and extend methane limits, she said.
His visit comes as fears persist the EPA is closing down its Chicago regional office, CBS 2's Jeremy Ross reports.
Mikulka said that is not typical of administrators. "We've been there. That's why we have an EPA".
Debbie Chizewer, a law fellow at Northwestern University's Environmental Advocacy Clinic, said the East Chicago residents she works with were excited about the high-profile visit, but still anxious that cleanup efforts already underway will not go far enough.