Allegany County to receive part of $2.5 million grant to attack lead-based paint hazards

Allegany will receive some $700,000 out of a $2.5 million grant award to Cattaraugus County to aid in identifying and controlling serious lead-based paint hazards in homes in both areas.

A representative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes is scheduled to present the grant award in Olean tomorrow during Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

Health officials report that lead-based paint hazards are of significant concern due to the age of a majority of housing in both counties.

Lead-based paint ban over 40 years ago
Sale of lead-based paint was banned in 1978 due to health risks, particularly to children, but nearly seven out of 10 homes in the two counties were constructed before that time. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that homes built before that year “are likely to have some lead-based paint.”

Dr. Kevin Watkins, Cattaraugus County public health director, says that although “one-time exposure to lead poisoning isn’t the most damaging,” people often don’t know they have been exposed, with children being the most vulnerable.

Some results of lead poisoning include irreversible loss of IQ, auditory processing difficulty, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), poor control of emotions, lack of impulse control, increased likelihood of dropping out of school, delinquency, and even incarceration, officials report, resulting in impacted young people potentially becoming “inappropriately labeled which may mark them for life” as a result of such exposure.

They say that lead “lurks” in additional places, including water from contaminated pipes, some spices and cosmetics from Asia and Africa, some toys, and jewelry, proximity to factories and other places, including small airports at which small owner-operated planes may still use leaded fuel.

Exact grant amount not yet known
Allegany County Health Director Tyler Shaw tells Allegany Hope Community News that the exact grant amount to the county isn’t yet known but that some $700,000 had been requested.

The county, by itself, would not have been able to qualify for funding, he said, noting that both counties face similar issues.

The director noted that Allegany already receives some money from the state for “lower level” abatement efforts, with the additional federal funds allowing his department to “focus on the program a bit more and our dollars will go even further.”

The state already has earmarked monies for lead service line replacement and some municipalities have taken advantage of that, he said, whereby the new grant “focuses on housing and children and building a more sustainable lead positioning prevention program.”

Key grant components
A key component of the new effort, Shaw said, will be in training lead abatement contractors, of which there currently are none in Allegany County, to receive certifications in lead remediation and lead abatement services, along with educating local code enforcement officers about lead safety practices and what to look for when issuing building permits where lead hazards may be present.

He said the grant also will fund a county staff member to coordinate and execute the grant, pay for cleaning supplies for those individuals who have lead hazards present in their homes and, during the last six months of funding, provide remediation funds for specific issues.

How the remediation funds can be utilized and who will qualify won’t be immediately known, however, “as we have a few years before the remediation funds can actually be utilized,” the director said.