Arsenic found in soil at South Bend's LaSalle Homes development

Concerns over contaminated soil in parts of South Bend’s LaSalle Park Homes development could bring “Superfund” status to the area.

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the so-called Beck’s Lake site near West Washington and Falcon to the National Priority List.

Making the list would enable the EPA to conduct more tests to determine the extent of the contamination.

Officials have been aware of environmental issues in the general vicinity since 1984.

The land that now serves as LaSalle Park served as a dump from 1938 to the mid 1950’s. Bendix and other companies unloaded everything from asbestos, to paint waste, to foundry sand there.

While pollution in the park is well documented, turns out the problem actually extends to the south across Falcon Street and into the backyards of some residents in the LaSalle Park housing development.

“We decided to go beyond the scope of the Beck’s Lake and expand out a little bit into the residential area to take samples,” said Mark Jaworski with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. “When we got our samples back we detected elevated levels of arsenic sporadically within the area and that prompted us to take a closer look in the area, nothing dramatically high but they were elevated.”

The tests revealed elevated levels of arsenic in soil samples taken two feet from residential yards and 200 feet from apartment houses.

Some of the arsenic levels were three times higher than they were in samples taken away from LaSalle Park.

“There’s a lot of documentation and we appreciate that, but to somebody saying, ‘what does this mean for me?’ it’s not extremely clear,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg, (D) South Bend.

While the situation is serious enough to be a candidate for a Superfund clean-up, it’s not so serious as to require immediate action.

“They haven't indicated to us that there's anything new by way of steps we need to take, they did not advise that we restrict access to the park or anything like that,” said Mayor Buttigieg.

The mayor sent a letter to the EPA asking the agency to hold a public meeting in South Bend where residents could get answers to their questions.

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