Marktown residents celebrate the Fourth of July. BP expanded its refinery to the northern boundary of Marktown, a 100-year-old workers village in East Chicago, in 2013. Well within a disaster blast zone, the neighborhood is a liability for BP. The firm has offered between $4,545 and $30,000 for the properties, which is not enough to buy an equivalent home, especially on a fixed income. Residents say they have felt more vulnerable with each of the nearly 20 buildings demolished in the past year.
American industry disproportionately affects the health of low-income communities. East Chicago, Indiana — known as the country's "most industrialized municipality" during the 19th century — offers a glimpse into environmental injustices plaguing the rust belt.
Nearly 80 percent of the city is zoned for heavy industries that pollute the air, water, and soil.
Last year, nearly 1,200 East Chicagoans learned that their children’s blood carried poisonous levels of lead and that their homes were built on an old lead smelter site. Nearby, British Petroleum is buying and demolishing the homes that its massive oil refinery surrounds.
Industries that once bolstered citizens’ economic futures now threaten their existence.
President Donald Trump has proposed massive cuts to the EPA, including its environmental justice program, which reduces the burden of pollution on poor communities. Lead cleanups, environmental protection enforcement, and restoration projects are expected to be reduced or abandoned.
Still, East Chicagoans are intensely proud of their community. Life endures within a system that profits at the expense of underrepresented people in disregarded spaces.