In response to reports of children with confirmed elevated blood lead levels, the Erie County Department of Health, on at least two occasions, issued violations for conditions conducive to lead poisoning to the properties' former owner; the City of Buffalo issued property violations for improper maintenance of interior surfaces (including peeling paint).
The settlement announced by Attorney General Schneiderman today requires the current property owners to address the lead-based paint hazards in the buildings by following a detailed work plan that includes replacement of all windows, tight-fitting doors, cabinet drawers, floors, and other "friction surfaces" that contain lead-based paint. The agreement provides for an independent monitor to oversee the work's completion.
"Exposure to lead paint and lead dust poses a serious health hazard to everyone, but is especially harmful to our young children," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "This settlement requires major permanent fixes that will help protect future generations of children. Buffalo is among the most dangerous lead hotspots in America, and my office will continue fighting to hold property owners accountable and ensure that families in Western New York and across the state can rest assured that their homes are free of dangerous lead."
The Attorney General's investigation revealed that the vast majority of the apartment buildings' units contained deteriorated lead-based paint—that is, paint that is peeling, chipping, chipping, chalking or cracking, or located on a surface that is damaged or deteriorated—a significant potential threat to the health of the tenants.
Lead abatement work should begin on the Elmwood Anderson Apartment complex this summer and be completed within three months of the commencement of the work. In March of this year, a fire caused severe damage to the Lafayette-Barton Apartments; the Attorney General may issue a lead-paint remediation plan to the Lafayette-Barton Apartment's owner once a final assessment of the damage is made.
This settlement is Attorney General Schneiderman's most recent effort to combat lead poisoning in Buffalo. Previously, in February 2016, Attorney General Schneiderman announced that he was investing an additional $346,825 in the Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative to increase the initiative's home lead hazard intervention and remediation efforts.
In May 2016, Attorney General Schneiderman reached a settlement with First National Solution LLC for violations of lead and related home health and safety laws, whereby the owners were required to forfeit six Buffalo east-side properties, cease doing real estate business in Erie County, and fund a $334,000 restitution account that compensated tenants and brought the premises into clean-and-green code compliance.
Erie County's old and often-deteriorated housing stock is the source for much of the lead poisoning that occurs in the area. Buffalo has the highest percentage of homes built before World War II of any large city in the nation, and many of the area homes pre-date the banning of lead paint which occurred in 1978.
The Erie County Department of Health has successfully lowered lead poisoning rates, but the issue remains a serious local concern. In Buffalo, children are testing positive for lead poisoning at more than three-times the statewide average; in fact, one-third of all lead poisoning cases reported in New York State outside of New York City are located in the Buffalo area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that there is no safe blood lead level for children. Even small amounts of lead can cause permanent neurological damage including loss of I.Q., developmental delays, learning disabilities, memory loss, and other maladies.
New York law requires that health providers screen children at one and two years old for elevated blood lead levels, and continue to monitor children through six years old for risk of lead exposure. If a child does have an elevated lead level, the provider must provide further testing and resources, and refer the case to the local health department.
Attorney General Schneiderman thanks the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Erie County Department of Health, and the City of Buffalo for their assistance with this investigation.
To learn more about lead paint poisoning and the resources available to New Yorkers, click here and here.