Health inspectors look for four toxic chemicals in yards of southeast side residents

Looking for chemicals from closed Coke plant

INDIANAPOLIS - Is a plant that closed long ago damaging the health of Indianapolis residents? That's what health inspectors are trying to find out as they study a southeast side neighborhood that sits in the shadow of that industrial relic.

What used to be the Citizens Gas and Coke Utility Coke Plant on the southeast side has been closed for several years, but it's still prompting concern from some neighborhood residents, and now an investigation by the Marion County Health Department.

Health inspectors have been posting notices on homes in the neighborhood around the former coke plant, asking residents for permission to test the soil in their yards.

They're looking for four specific chemicals -- arsenic, lead, chromium and cadmium. All are extremely toxic, and at least two are known to be contained in emissions from coke ovens.

Some neighborhood residents have been concerned for some time, that's what prompted the Health Department testing.

Other residents, like Lynnette and Dale Britt, are just getting worried as they hear about the potential danger.

"Who wants chemicals in their dirt? You know our children play in the grass," Lynnette Britt said. "Children play in the grass, you know, and get dirt in their hair."

Many residents have lived in this neighborhood their entire lives. They said they never thought about the potential problems until now.

"No, it never did bother me before,” said one woman. “I mean, like I said, I've lived here all my life."

But other residents have always been concerned about health problems.

"I lived in this neighborhood 30 years ago,” said another woman. “And it gave me rashes then."

Others, however, downplayed their neighbors' concerns.

"I don't know,” said one man. "They're concerned about a lot of stupid things. So I don't really concern myself."

Health officials said the testing will be done in several weeks, and depending on what, and how much, they find, they will decide at that point what to do.

A Citizens Energy spokesperson said the company was unaware of the testing before Wednesday and is withholding comment until it can study the issue further.

Follow Norman Cox on Twitter: @normancox6

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