The West Calumet Complex, an affordable-housing complex in East Chicago, Ind., was built in 1972 — but it took over four decades for city officials and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to alert residents of a potential lead crisis. The Young Turks news team recently went to East Chicago to interview residents and activists in the area to see how they are responding to news of the contamination.

“We had no idea what we’ve been living in,” Akeesha Daniels, a resident since 2004, told TYT reporter Jordan Chariton. Daniels said she “never was sick a day in [her] life” before moving into the West Calumet Complex.

Lonnie M. Randolph, a Democratic state senator, explained that several weeks ago, over 1,000 residents received letters from East Chicago’s mayor telling them they had between 30 and 90 days to evacuate their homes because of lead and arsenic levels in the soil surrounding the complex.

“They haven’t seen levels this high anywhere else in the country,” said Thomas Frank of the Dunelands Environmental Justice Alliance, noting that three lead refineries formerly existed on the plot of land where the residential complex now stands. Signs posted around the complex by the EPA warn residents not to play in the dirt or mulch.

Ever since the Flint, Mich., water crisis came to wide public attention, other communities across the country have begun to speak up about their own environmental crises. Experts have argued that the focus shouldn’t be on the individual crises but on the widespread need for better infrastructure throughout the U.S. Many communities, fed up with a lack of government aid in such cases, protest for environmental justice.

Bishop Tavis Grant of East Chicago’s Greater First Baptist Church argues that the community needs to mobilize. He asked, “How do you fight environmental injustice? How do you fight for your civil rights while people are making decisions for you?”

Watch the full video below:

—Posted by Emma Niles


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