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The visit from Pruitt comes amid reports that the agency was considering closing the EPA Chicago office responsible for environmental regulation of six states and the Great Lakes.

Bob Kaplan, the acting director of the Region 5 office, sent a memo to employees criticizing stories about the office closing as "pure speculation", according to a memo given to the Chicago Sun-Times and other media outlets.

With fewer employees and resources, the EPA won't be ready to respond to an environmental emergency like the Flint, Mich. water crisis, he said, where lives could be at stake. But his #Back2Basics plans for the EPA, which includes rolling back regulations for companies, would lead to additional problems in East Chicago.

He toured a housing complex built on the Superfund site where around 1,000 residents had to leave their homes earlier this year due to lead contamination.

Residents of a lead-contaminated public-housing complex in IN and environmental activists are protesting ahead of a visit by the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

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After offering remarks about his visit, Pruitt was asked whether the EPA planned to close its Chicago office, but he walked away without answering. They vow to take Pruitt to court.

"He categorically denied that they had any plans to do that", said Thomas Frank, one of five East Chicago residents who met with Pruitt on Wednesday.

Frank Lagunas is an EPA chemist that works out Region 5's Chicago office.

"The alleged closure was just a hoax - there's no information whatsoever that supports these rumors", EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said.

The White House proposed significant cuts to the EPA, and many officials think it could come at the expense of a couple of regional offices.

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Residents of the complex and environmental activists protested ahead of his visit. "And we air we breathe is contaminated", said Thomas Frank, a resident of the community of roughly 30,000 who lives near the Superfund site. "They are frustrated about that".

"We have been going through this, fighting tooth and nail", Adams says.

John O'Grady, president of AFGE Council 238, the union that represents EPA employees, said: "This Administration wants to cut at least 3,100 full-time employees, yet the March 21, 2017, budget document indicates cuts as high as 4,000 full-time employees". That's before a proposed 31 percent budget cut, he said. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, and East Chicago's mayor for closed-door meetings in an industrial corridor of in roughly 25 miles from downtown Chicago.

Kim Bellware contributed reporting from Chicago.

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