Indiana to Get EPA Money for Lead Cleanup, Water Upgrades

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By David Schultz

The EPA is giving the Hoosier State a loan of nearly half a billion dollars to upgrade its water systems, with plans to spend additional money to clean up a lead-contaminated site in the northwestern part of the state.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on April 19 visited Whiting, Ind., home of a former Federated Metals plant that is now a Superfund site. Pruitt said his agency would spend $1.7 million to address lead contamination at the former copper, lead, and zinc smelter.

Pruitt also highlighted a $436 million loan from the Environmental Protection Agency to Indiana through the agency’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, which provides low-cost financing for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades. The agency first announced last summer it had accepted Indiana’s application for this loan as part of its first-ever round of financing under the program established in 2014.

The EPA said in an April 19 statement that the money would flow through to the state “once all needed processes are complete.” The loan cleared a preliminary EPA environmental review earlier this year. This loan is one of 12 that the EPA granted through its first $2.3 billion round of financing through this program.

The agency’s press office did not immediately respond to Bloomberg Environment’s request for comment on what specific actions the EPA took on April 19 on the Indiana loan or about whether the loan has been finalized.

Pruitt Talks to Residents

The announcement came after Pruitt personally visited Whiting, which is on Lake Michigan, and spoke with people living near the contaminated Federated Minerals site.

“There was a woman who was a property owner waiting for them,” Thomas Frank, an activist with the East Chicago, Ind.-based Community Strategy Group, an environmental justice advocacy coalition, told Bloomberg Environment. “Apparently her property tested high in lead and she was showing them where the tests had occurred,”

Pruitt was at the Indiana site about 10 or 15 minutes, Frank said.

Pruitt also made a stop lasting less than 20 minutes at the EPA’s Region 5 headquarters in Chicago, Mike Mikulka, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 704 union, told Bloomberg Environment.

—With assistance from Stephen Joyce in Chicago.

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