PILSEN — Community support is crucial to determining lead levels in several areas near Perez Elementary and Benito Juarez Academy, Environmental Protection Agency officials said Tuesday.
“We hope with meetings like this one tonight to further gain inroads with the residents of Pilsen and Little Village,” EPA spokesman Francisco Arcaute said.
The EPA is reaching out to residents near the two schools, and especially properties just north of Cermak Road.
According to a flier handed out at the meeting, the sampling will be done at no charge to the property owner and involves digging several small holes on the property.
In February, the EPA announced that high levels of lead had been found in an alley adjacent to the H. Kramer smelting factory at 1345 W. 21st St.
It was those levels that prompted the current residential outreach program. The actual site testing should begin by this spring or summer, said Ramon Mendoza, an EPA on-scene coordinator.
About 60 people turned up for Tuesday’s community meeting at Walsh Elementary, 2015 S. Peoria St.
While pollution levels could be damaging to the environment, residents’ health could also be at stake. In some places, like at an open field near the GrowingStation community garden at 21st and Sangamon streets, lead was found at 26,000 parts per million.
“That’s like off-the-charts high,” said Jerry Mead-Cucero, an organizer for the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (P.E.R.R.O.)
Started in 2004, the grassroots organization has strived to keep pollution emissions low within Pilsen.
In addition to testing near Perez and Benito Juarez, the EPA also will test soil near the old Loewenthal Metals site at 947 W. Cullerton St.
The EPA will conduct interviews, both in person and over the phone, with residents of Little Village and Pilsen in order to set up a community involvement plan for the two neighborhoods.
Residents are encouraged to reach out to Heriberto Leon at 312-886-6163 or firstname.lastname@example.org before April 12 for more information.