EPA to begin $5 million lead cleanup in Martindale-Brightwood

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (September 9, 2016) -- In weeks, the EPA will begin a new effort to clean up dangerous levels of lead in Martindale-Brightwood, 30 years after they began investigating contamination in the area.

EPA representatives held a meeting for neighbors Thursday night, aiming to educate them about the breadth and scope of their latest plan to clean up lead from the old American Lead plant site.

The residents, in turn, wanted to hear that the EPA’s newest attempt to get rid of the lead will put an end to their nightmare.

“At this point, people are getting like, “What is going on? Are we ever going to get answers?” asks Martindale-Brightwood Environmental Justice Collaborative chairperson Elizabeth Gore.

But many people said they left this meeting with many more questions than EPA representatives could answer.

“It’s awful, just awful,” says Yvonne Jenkins. “There’s nothing that any of us can get back.”

Yvonne Jenkins lives one-tenth of a mile from the old American Lead plant site. The soil around her home has dangerously high levels of the chemical.

“My oldest grandchild is sixteen, so he grew up there basically all his life,” says Jenkins. “And I have two others, so there’s a chance that all three of them. Might as well say they are exposed.

Like many at the meeting, Jenkins is concerned about generations of children poisoned by the lead in their yards.

She and some others are even more frustrated that they’re still dealing with this problem a decade after the EPA told them their homes were all cleaned up.

“They dug two feet all around my home,” says Jenkins. “Once more, here we are again in 2016 with the same issue, with the level being a lot higher than it was the first time.”

EPA on-site coordinator Shelly Lam told people with similar complaints that the answer is not improper excavation and cleanup. She believes the soil around their homes were re-contaminated as the city has torn down blighted homes around the previously cleaned properties.

Some people in attendance disputed that claim, saying they live on streets where not a single home has been torn down.

The homes that once again showed lead contamination in their soil samples will be cleaned again as the EPA targets 100 homes in a larger area than before.

Lam says it’s likely even more homes beyond their cleanup zone have lead in the soil too. But until they can prove it came from American Lead, the agency can’t spend the money to clean it up.

They’re asking people from around the cleanup zone to request soil samples to help establish a pattern and expand the current cleanup area.

“Will this be something that can end?” asks Gore. “Or will we always have to put gardens in boxes and will our children have to be tested for a period of time?”

For now, the EPA will concentrate on this project, which is expected to cost as much as $5 million.

Lam says they hope to start digging up the lead-tainted soil within the next few weeks.

The process will likely take years to complete. This time, Jenkins hopes, will be the last time.

I’m going to try to have faith,” says Jenkins. “We’ll see what happens.”