New Haven is about to get tougher on its lead poisoning standards. The mayor outlined a plan Monday following multiple lawsuits against the city for not enforcing existing lead laws.
Mayor Toni Harp announced she will not appeal the most recent court ruling, which found that the city illegally increased the blood lead level for young children that would prompt an inspection and abatement enforcement.
Instead, Harp announced a five-point plan to address what she called a serious, complex policy issue.
Harp said “the city will use the recent spate of lawsuits as a springboard to refine its ordinance, eliminate any potential ambiguity in its language, and go forward with a plan of action triggered by a blood level of five micrograms per deciliter, even as the state law requires action at 20.”
Harp said a new law will state that apartments housing children under the age of 6 with a lead level of 5 or greater will receive full lead hazard inspections with X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers.
Also included in the plan, the city will hire additional lead paint inspectors, implement technology in the field “to standardize inspections, create digital records, and provide clear communications to all applicable city departments,” Harp said.
The city also plans to provide an “outreach, awareness, and education program” on preventing lead exposure.
The last component of the plan addresses finances. Harp said her “financial team is already working to expand an existing program in which a ‘lien’ is placed on property requiring abatement, exploring how a revolving loan fund might work to underwrite these projects, or perhaps bringing state or federal resources to bear.”
But during the city hall press conference Harp corrected comments by both the city’s interim public health director Roslyn Hamilton and the community services administrator Dakibu Muley.
Muley spoke first on the CDC’s recommendations for local health department actions, but his numbers seemed to contradict Harp's. He said, “the CDC recommendations provide for local discretion for children whose blood lead levels are between 10 and 19 micrograms per deciliter of whole blood.” He went on to say that the “state requires an epidemiological inspection when a child’s blood level tests twice at or above 15 micrograms per deciliter within a 90-day period. As proposed, the city of New Haven will exceed both recommendations.”
During Hamilton’s comments, Harp told reporters the city would do an inspection and a full epidemiological search at 5 micrograms per deciliter, “exactly what we would have done at 20,” she said.
But Hamilton corrected Harp and said, "Well, we're not doing full inspections and we're not using XRF machines, I don't think" for children with blood lead levels of 5.
Harp said, “Yes, we are. We have decided — I have decided as mayor that we will use everything that is required at a higher level at 5.”
The plan still has to be voted on, but Harp said she hopes the review process will begin right away.