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Duckworth, Durbin and Kelly Urge EPA to Act on Dangerous Levels of Soil Contamination in Chicago’s Southeast Side | U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois

November 25, 2019

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL),
along with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL-02),
sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging the
agency to remediate soil contaminated with manganese, a known neurotoxin, by
using the State of Illinois’ more protective manganese clean-up threshold.
Residents living near S.H.
Bell and Watco facilities on Chicago’s Southeast
Side have historically been exposed to dangerously high levels of
toxins.

In
part, the letter states: “We are deeply disappointed in EPA’s announcement
that it will only remediate soil at Southeast Side homes with manganese levels
over 5,500 ppm. We urge EPA to exercise its discretion to use more protective
thresholds for soil clean-up given the potential exposure of sensitive
populations, including young children and pregnant women.”

It
continues, “By selecting a dangerously high threshold, EPA is risking the
public health and well-being of our constituents. We strongly urge EPA to adopt
the Illinois State remediation level of 1,800 ppm, which has been applied in
clean-ups in DePue, Illinois and other exposed areas.”

Duckworth
has called
on the EPA
multiple
times,
urging them to use the full extent of the agency’s authority to stop companies
on the Southeast Side of Chicago from releasing unsafe levels of toxins into
the air and soil. A full copy of the letter is available below and online here.

Ms.
Cathy Stepp

Regional
Administrator for EPA Region 5

U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency

77
West Jackson Boulevard

Chicago,
IL 60604-3590

Dear
Administrator Stepp:

We
write to request that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) address
the cumulative risks posed by soil contamination to Chicago Southeast Side
residents living near the S.H. Bell and Watco facilities. Specifically, we are
asking that EPA take swift action to remediate soil contaminated with manganese
using the State of Illinois’ manganese clean-up threshold, and remediate
lead-contaminated soil.

The
public health challenge posed by the presence of industrial operations on the
Southeast Side requires a comprehensive approach. EPA recently determined that
elevated levels of manganese had contaminated the soil found in residents’
yards. EPA also found latent lead dust in the soil at levels of over 400 ppm at
homes and over 1200 ppm at a smaller set of sites. These metals are known
neurotoxins and must be removed to protect the health of area residents, in
particular the many young children and women of childbearing age who live in
the exposed community.

We
are deeply disappointed in EPA’s announcement that it will only remediate soil
at Southeast Side homes with manganese levels over 5,500 ppm. We urge EPA to
exercise its discretion to use more protective thresholds for soil clean-up
given the potential exposure of sensitive populations, including young children
and pregnant women. The two census tracts near S.H. Bell are home to nearly
10,000 people, of which 15 to 16 percent are children ages 0 to 9, a percentage
more than 20 percent higher than in Cook County as a whole.

By
selecting a dangerously high threshold, EPA is risking the public health and
well-being of our constituents. We strongly urge EPA to adopt the Illinois
State remediation level of 1,800 ppm, which has been applied in clean-ups in
DePue, Illinois and other exposed areas. We also strongly urge EPA to commit to
removing soil contaminated with lead above 400 ppm, the remediation standard
for lead in soil used by both US EPA Region 5 (for example, USS Lead
Superfund site) and Illinois EPA (for example, the DePue Superfund
site).

By
taking these two steps, EPA can provide confidence to residents on the
Southeast side of Chicago that their government is acting with urgency to do
everything it can to protect them from suffering harmful exposure to dangerous
metals.

As
the Regional Administrator of EPA Region 5, you have an opportunity to
demonstrate leadership by bringing together EPA’s dedicated civil servants with
appropriate State and local officials to effectively safeguard the public
health of the families you serve. Thank you in advance for your consideration
of our urgent request for EPA assistance.

                                                              Sincerely,



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All Information was gathered from publicly available US Government releases. "§105. Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise. ( Pub. L. 94–553, title I, §101, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2546 .)" http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:17%20section:105%20edition:prelim)