Lead | Photo Essay

The Fight for East Chicago

Lead contamination in an Indiana city

Lorenzo "Bambam" Jenkins, 12, his two-year-old niece Laylay Striblin, and his friend Keanthony Brown, 14, spend time at a park near the West Calumet Housing Complex. Jenkins says he's upset that he has to move but that he'll keep up with his friends like Brown if they are able to stay at the same school.

The West Calumet Housing Complex is home to nearly 1,200 people, located on a seventy nine-acre site in East Chicago, Indiana, which the Environmental Protection Agency has declared hazardous to human health. Up until 1985 a lead refinery, a copper smelter, and a secondary lead smelter were also in the area, and as early as 1987, federal and state agencies investigated the site as a potential cleanup priority. But due to limited resources and an abundance of red tape, the site has remained contaminated for decades.