American Lead Site

site background

From 1946 to 1965, American Lead operated a lead reclamation smelter at 2102 Hillside Avenue (formerly listed as 1600 East 21st Street). In 1965, National Lead Industries, Inc. (NLI) acquired American Lead and became the owner and operator of the facility. During NLI’s ownership lead slag (lead oxide) was stored in open-air piles on the property. A 1965 newspaper report indicates that the facility had three "chimneys,'' one approximately 100 feet high and two others approximately 50 feet high, that collapsed during a 1965 fire which led to the closure of the facility. In 1971 NLI facilitated the removal of several buildings and the slag piles from the property. The property remained vacant until 1985 when Central Concrete Company (CCC) purchased the property. In 1990, CCC sold the property to Irving Materials, Inc. 


In June 1981, NLI completed CERCLA Notification of Hazardous Waste forms for 44 sites in Region 5. One of these forms was for the American Lead Corp., located at East 21st Street, Indianapolis, Indiana. Dates of waste handling were given as 1946 to 1979. Among the waste types listed on the notification form are inorganics, heavy metals, and slag. In May 1986, EPA performed a Site Inspection (SI) and reported the results in September of 1986 which documented lead contamination present at 3,247 parts per million (ppm). 

In February 1996, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) issued NLI a special notice directing them to conduct an investigation to determine the nature and full extent of contamination at the Site and in the surrounding residential and industrial/commercial properties. Following the issuance of special notice, IDEM and NLI entered into an agreement for NLI to conduct an investigation of the extent of contamination off-site. Pursuant to the agreement, NLI collected samples and submitted several reports to the IDEM for its review. Following the study, the parties entered into negotiations for NLI to conduct removal work. Negotiations continued between the IDEM and NLI until March 2003, when the IDEM requested assistance from the EPA Region 5 Emergency Response Branch for a removal assessment/removal action due to the concentrations of lead contamination, and failed negotiations with the potentially responsible party (PRP) to reach a compromise on the remedial aspect of the project. EPA’s negotiations with the PRP resulted in an administrative order that required the PRP to characterize lead contamination in the surrounding areas of the facility (off-site) and remediate lead contaminated soil. 

In 2005 NLI initiated cleanup of properties with elevated lead levels based on their agreement with the EPA. The cleanup activities included those properties where analytical results for soil had exceedances for lead equal to or greater than 400 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg). Contaminated soils at properties were removed to a maximum depth of 12 inches or to a maximum of 24 inches in gardens and play areas. Between 2005 and 2007, approximately 47,617 tons of non-hazardous lead-contaminated soil were excavated from properties in the vicinity of the Site and disposed of at the Clinton County Landfill. 

In August 2011, a non-profit organization Improving Kids’ Environment (IKE) and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) conducted a study in the vicinity of the Site. The study was implemented with the intent of further evaluating lead concentrations in soils, assessing the potential for the transport and inhalation of lead-contaminated particulates. A final component of the study was to provide study participants and the community with information related to potential hazards associated exposure to lead-contaminated soil and particulates. 

Based on the level of interest at the Site from multiple stakeholders, EPA convened a meeting to discuss the proposed sampling plan on February 14, 2014. Further, attendees at the meeting were asked to review and provide comments on the Draft FSP. 

Town of Brightwood

The Town of Brightwood—incorporated in 1876 and annexed into Indianapolis in 1897—served primarily as a residential area for the workers in nearby industries until the mid-20th century.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Brightwood underwent a significant demographic shift as working class white residents moved to newly built suburbs, leaving low-income African-American families to occupy existing housing. By 1960 black residents accounted for almost half of the neighborhood's population of about 5,700. Recent figures indicate a black majority of over 90 percent of the current population of approximately 4,700. 

In 1969, the neighborhood was a target of federally funded efforts at urban renewal and rehabilitation. Although some evidence of these efforts remains, such as the Martindale­-Brightwood Neighborhood Association, the neighborhood continues to face social and economic pressures.


Timothy J. Sehr, Three Gilded Age Suburbs of Indianapolis: Irvington, Brightwood, and Woodruff Place, 77 Ind. Mag. Hist. 305 (1981). 

Robert Cross, Brightwood, in The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis (David J.,Bodenhamer, Robert G. Barrows, and David G. Vanderstel, eds., 1994). 



Indianapolis Awarded Federal Grant to Remove Lead From Lower-Income Homes, Fox 59 News (Feb. 13, 2013).

Jessica R. Kay, Martindale Brightwood To Be Retested For Toxic Lead in Soil, Indianapolis Recorder (April 17, 2014).

Chris O'Malley, New Outlook for Decrepit City Neighborhood, Indianapolis Business Journal (Sept. 11, 2010).