Lead Paint Issues Still Problematic in New Haven

New Haven has many units that were built before the federal lead paint law passed in the late 1970s.

Lead paint is still a huge problem in historic New Haven.

New Haven officials say there are still around 20,000 housing units in the city which need to be inspected and perhaps abated.

They were built before federal lead paint law passed in the late 1970s.

Mayor Toni Harp says she wants to update their local lead ordinance, as the city continues to battle legal issues surrounding their lead ordinance.

A judge recently ruled in favor of parents of two young children who say their kids have been poisoned by lead paint in their rental apartments and New Haven and the city’s health department have “failed to ensure proper lead poisoning response and mitigation as required by city and state law,” according to court documents.

The mayor’s office says the proposed, amended ordinance will address inconsistencies in the city's program, improve upon its success and shore up the city's partnership with property owners, who have primary responsibility for lead compliance in the first place.

They say they have made strides, as the number of kids with lead poisoning in the city has dropped from 104 in 2018 to 228 in 2016.

“We want to have more lead inspectors and we have found some resources. We’ve asked our coordinators and department heads to look at their existing budgets, things they want to do, and we’ve said, ‘maybe we can’t do them this year,’ we need those resources for inspectors,” Harp said.

The mayor says while the city is committed to making changes to eradicate all lead poisoning cases, she hopes property owners will take some ownership in the issue too.

“We don’t want this to make them homeless or to drive them out of their properties, so we’re going to look at a revolving loan fund that we have so they can borrow that money at low interest or no interest depending on their income and hopefully get the job done.”

Harp says she will soon be submitting a proposed amendment to the city’s lead paint ordinance to the board of alders Monday.

New Haven Legal Assistance is interested in seeing the proposed amendment ordinance, as they continue to represent families fighting the city on their handling of lead poisoning cases. According to court documents, in one complaint, they argued that after reaching out to a family twice, “The Health Department did not reach the family upon either call and took no further action to reach the family.”

Tuesday, a hearing will be held to determine if the civil ruling in favor of the parents could be applied as a class action lawsuit.

As for the mayor’s updated ordinance, when it’s presented to the Board of Alders, that’s just the beginning of the process. It could take months to become city law.

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