County executive proposal would commit $3.75 million for inspections, remediation
Funds to supplement county's existing lead programs, increase outreach to more homes
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined Wednesday by health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein and Commissioner of Environment and Planning Thomas Dearing to announce a major Erie County commitment of $3.75 million over the next five years to increase lead inspections and remediation across Erie County. The funding, which must be approved by the legislature, would supplement the county's existing lead programs and expand their reach into more communities.
"Lead poisoning is an insidious disease that can destroy a child's future and cause permanent neurological damage. Erie County has already been working aggressively against lead exposure in the community in a number of ways, and today we are reconfirming our commitment to the fight," Poloncarz said. "My proposal would add $3.75 million in additional funding over five years for investigative and nursing staff, lead-safe work materials for landlords to use in remediation, and a replacement window fund. This commitment will allow us to significantly increase our lead prevention efforts, but we can't do it alone. While this investment in public health will have a significant impact on countywide lead exposure, we will also work with partners at all levels of government and in the private and not-for-profit sectors to eliminate lead in Erie County."
The Erie County Department of Health currently operates three lead poisoning prevention programs: lead poisoning primary prevention, child lead poisoning prevention, and lead hazard control. From 2008 through the end of 2015, ECDOH has inspected 12,733 homes in the City of Buffalo and overseen the remediation of nearly 1,000 homes in the city per year during that time.
Burstein added, "Lead poses a danger that never rests, and we must be equally persistent as we work to identify lead problems and remediate them. The issue is immense and there are many older homes in our area needing inspection and potential lead abatement work, so this funding will critically strengthen our efforts and allow us to help more homeowners and landlords to recognize and ameliorate their lead problems."
Erie County's Department of Environment and Planning does additional lead remediation work throughout Erie County through its community development block grant fund. In the past seven years, ECDEP has overseen the remediation of 500 homes in municipalities such as Angola, Colden, Tonawanda, Lackawanna and West Seneca.
"Lead abatement is an issue that is not limited to our urban cores, but extends into our suburban and rural centers, as well," Dearing said. "Expansion of our outreach efforts will create a cleaner, healthier Erie County."
Poloncarz' proposal would add a new senior investigating public health sanitarian along with five investigating public health sanitarians, a registered nurse to provide case management for children with lower but still elevated blood lead levels, and a clerk to handle the large amounts of legal paperwork generated by these programs. $20,000 per year would also be provided for lead-safe work materials for property owners outside of lead primary target ZIP codes to remediate their lead paint issues, and a window fund would be created to provide low interest loans or grants for replacement windows. Windows are often the No. 1 source of lead poisoning in a home.
Poloncarz concluded, "When we see a threat to public health, we must act. We are doing that with this proposal, a clear and forceful announcement of our intent to eliminate lead in our community. We are providing new resources and new determination to work with partners in addressing this problem countywide, and I urge the legislature to approve this proposal without delay."
For more information on the Erie County Department of Health, visit http://www2.erie.gov/health/.