|Posted on September 7, 2016 at 5:25 AM|
Indiana State Conference of the NAACP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 6, 2016 Contact
Barbara Bolling-Williams, State President
(219) 614-4889, [email protected]
Denise Abdul-Rahman, State Environmental Climate Justice Chair
Gary, Indiana- The Indiana State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The Indiana State Conference of the NAACP is deeply alarmed to learn that the lead levels in the soil, surrounding and beneath the West Calumet Housing Complex in the City of East Chicago, IN, are 228 times greater than EPA’s limits. According to reports, the residents at this site have been impacted by the exposures to lead, arsenic and other containments for over 40 years. The disregard for the health well being of the residents of the complex is a tragic failure of the duty to protect the residents of West Calumet Housing Complex, Calumet, and the City of East Chicago, Indiana in general. As a result, the Northwest Indiana Times reports preliminary tests showing children in the area have blood lead levels as high as 33 micrograms per deciliter, Since the lead crisis in Flint, the “acceptable” level has been lowered from 10 micrograms per deciliter to 5 according to the Center for Disease Control. The City Attorney, Carla Morgan, shared that only 420-450 children have had their blood tested. There is no safe level of lead in the body, even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect I.Q. We encourage parents and caregivers to get their children and themselves tested.
There are approximately 1500 children aged 6 and younger living within a 1-mile radius of the USS Lead Smelter site. Located in a food desert, with no grocery store within a 1-mile radius of the community, the residents of the West Calumet Housing Complex lack access to healthy fruits and vegetables. Data shows that children poisoned by lead need fresh food and vegetable to mitigate the impact of lead in their systems.
Furthermore, lead exposure is dramatically known to impact children’s ability to learn. The local public school Carrie Gosch Elementary has low and still declining Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) and only 39% of their students passed the 2014—2015 ISTEP.
Barbara Bolling Williams, President of NAACP Indiana stated “we are outraged by this total disregard for the health and safety of a generation of people who have resided and continue to reside in and around the West Calumet Housing Complex. It is the sincere goal of the NAACP to extend our support in making the community whole and to assist in the reduction of the countless additional burdens now bestowed upon the estimated 346 families and their children.”
“This is too frequent, these hazardous contaminations occurring within black, brown, and vulnerable communities, it is a systemic pattern I see across the nation. This challenge must be addressed at the root of the socio-economic and political underpinnings of these types of systemic inequities that disproportionately impact communities of color and low income communities,” says Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP Director of Environmental Climate Justice Program.
Reverend James H. Hunter, Sr. has lived in East Chicago and pastored the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church for 54 years. He expressed his support for the efforts to give people descent housing and EPA’s effort to decontaminant the housing, “I am concerned about people getting descent housing and about their health conditions.”
The NAACP Indiana will further engage residents, community leaders, faith leaders and public officials. “We must apply the lessons learned from the environmental injustice imposed upon the citizens of Flint. There are best practices the NAACP would like to share with the East Chicago communities” said Denise Abdul-Rahman, NAACP Indiana Environmental Climate Justice Chair.
The NAACP will continue investigating this incident, as well as advocate for culturally competent service provision, transparency of the administration of funds, and establishment of local hire and disadvantaged business enterprise provisions for all work/contract opportunities in the response to this travesty. The NAACP will also work directly on securing healthy fruits and vegetables for distribution through community centers and local church pantries, and documenting community concerns by recording complaints and convening community forums.
The NAACP founded in 1909, is a civil rights organization committed to fight for equality and the elimination of racial discrimination. The Indiana State Conference is the governing body for the 22 Branches, 6 Youth Councils, Jr. Youth Council, High School Chapter and 6 College Chapters. ###