Environment

Environment news

Government officials first found high levels of lead and arsenic at an East Chicago lead smelting plant in 1985. Thirty years later, after countless soil samples and elevated blood lead level tests, clean-up has begun. Why did it take so long?

Robert Kaplan oversees the Environmental Protection Agency’s work in the Midwest – he’s the Region 5 Administrator.

“I’m showing you an overhead aerial flight from 1949, and you’ve got the DuPont facility over here, you’ve got some other facilities over here, you’ve got two pre-existing neighborhoods,” Kaplan says.

Nick Janzen / Indiana Public Broadcasting

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward on plans to clean up a lead contaminated residential neighborhood in East Chicago.

The EPA has split the 3,000-person neighborhood in three, with a different plan for each part.

The Calumet neighborhood of East Chicago sits on a Superfund site that’s divided into three zones – 1,2 and 3 – based on who’s asked to pay for the cleanup.

EPA Regional Administrator Robert Kaplan says the lead contaminated soil in Zone 3 will simply be removed -- dug out.

Lauren Chapman / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Two months after East Chicago residents learned they'd have to move due to unsafe levels of lead in their neighborhood, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has reached out directly to federal officials about the situation.

Pence wrote to and called Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro on Tuesday, asking about details of the relocation process for more than 1,000 residents of West Calumet Housing Complex. Most of them are minorities, nearly 94 percent, and 551 are children.

Josh Mogerman / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jmogs/14142287984

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is considering a penalty against BP's large refinery in the Lake County town of Whiting.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management could fine BP up to $25,000 for each of the three violations. 

The BP Whiting Refinery operates along the shore of Lake Michigan. The refinery is permitted to discharge up to 5,700 pounds of wastewater pollutants into the lake every day. The pollution is a combination of scum, debris, and wastewater from normal refining operations.

Wendell Smith / https://www.flickr.com/photos/wendellsmith/8954136170

A years-long Purdue University experiment is testing whether ginseng can be cultivated by Indiana farmers.

Ginseng, commonly used as an herbal remedy, grows wild in most of Indiana. The Purdue Department of Forestry is trying to grow the plant in what’s called a “simulated wild grow.”

Purdue Extension Forester Lenny Farlee says ginseng has been over-harvested in the past, so the department aims to add to the ginseng supply and help cultivate native growing.

Dan Jeffrey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/danjeffrey/5182805581

Residents who live near the site of an old lead smelter in Indianapolis heard details Thursday night of plans to remove tainted soil from as many as 100 homes starting later this month.

For decades, the smelter in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood reclaimed lead from car batteries and other industrial waste.

Ten years ago, the EPA forced its owners to clean up contaminated soil from hundreds of homes around the site.

tanakawho / https://www.flickr.com/photos/28481088@N00/

Researchers from Purdue and other universities published a major global analysis of invasive species threats. The study found invasive species will primarily endanger developing countries.

Jeff Dukes, a Purdue University biology and forestry professor, calls invasive species plants or animals that have invaded an area they’re not native to.

courtesy Sierra Club

Seven environmental health and justice organizations, including the Sierra Club, are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over what they say are outdated toxicity standards for lead.  

The suit comes as authorities explore just how contaminated the heavy metal has made the soil in East Chicago.

Thinkprogress.org health writer Alex Zelinski says the lawsuit claims the EPA – and not the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- should have kept more accurate records on the alarming rise of health effects of lead on humans. 

Judy Palermo/Indianapolis Zoo

Voluntary conservation farming practices are measurably decreasing nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River Basin, and this good news: from the Midwest, all the way down the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico. As Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Nick Janzen reports, the Indiana trend in conservation is reducing the pollution that creates harmful algae blooms and the gulf’s dead zone.

The Indianapolis Zoo, as part of the dolphin exhibit, has a video of dolphins swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. They’re swimming near a boat, pushing air through their blowholes.

Sarah Altendorf / https://www.flickr.com/photos/sarah_elizabeth_simpson/

Indiana ranks 12th in the nation for the number of wind turbines, and wind energy production is projected to grow.

But Clinton County -- which had one of the state’s first wind ordinances – is now embroiled in talks about whether there will ever be any turbines there.

The Clinton County Area Planning Commission is collecting public comments from residents—for example, how much noise people are willing to tolerate—before they update its wind farm zoning ordinances.

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