Note that the Lake County Public Library District also operates a branch library in Gary. This is the Black Oak Branch, located at 5921 West 25thAvenue in Gary’s Black Oak neighborhood.
The reason for this unusual arrangement is that Black Oak was an unincorporated area until Mayor Hatcher convinced Black Oak residents to accept annexation in 1976. Today, it is Gary’s only neighborhood in which the majority of residents are Caucasian.
The residents of Black Oak are not, as a whole, more affluent than the residents of other Gary neighborhoods. Most of them live in single-family homes, and more than half of them own their own homes. A higher percentage of these single-family homes than in other parts of Gary are mobile homes.
Black Oak is home to Lake Sandy Jo (M&M Landfill), a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 Superfund site. According to the EPA, this “50-acre landfill located in a residential section of Gary, Indiana, bordered by Interstate-80/94 to the south…is a former water-filled borrow pit that was used as a landfill between 1971-1980. Various wastes, including construction and demolition debris, garbage and industrial wastes, and drums are believed to be buried onsite.”
The threats to human health there are many. “Groundwater, sediments, surface water, and soils contain heavy metals such as arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, and silver; volatile organic compounds (VOCs) include methylene chloride and chloroform, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and the pesticide DDT. The soils are also contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phthalates, and heavy metals. People who come into direct contact with or accidentally ingest contaminated groundwater, soil, surface water, or sediments may be at risk.”
This being the case, “A final cleanup decision was reached in September 1986. The site was fenced to limit access in 1986. Site soils and sediments were covered with clean soil, and the site was reseeded with prairie grasses. This action was completed in 1990. A drinking water line extension was constructed in 1994 that allows for 50 additional connections. Thirty-two locations have connected to the water line extension. In September 1994, U.S. EPA completed a Preliminary Close-out Report (PCOR) indicating that remedial construction at the site was complete.”
The first five-year review, dated January 18, 1996, concluded that the remedy remained “protective of human health and the environment.” A second five-year review, finished in September of 2001 confirmed this was still the case.
In September of 2006, a third five-year review was completed that concluded the site was “protective of human health and the environment only in the short term because the required institutional controls had not been implemented. Institutional controls, such as restrictive covenants and groundwater ordinances, are necessary on the landfill property and surrounding areas for the long-term protectiveness of the site.”
The EPA states, “The Indiana Department of Environmental Management, with U.S. EPA oversight, is currently securing institutional controls, monitoring the groundwater, and maintaining the soil cover.” The next five-year review is due this month (September of 2011).
The Black Oak Branch of the Lake County Public Library is open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 12:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays. The phone number there is (219) 844-8809.